You have to give the Australian media and public their due. Any chance to mock and ridicule the fortunes of us Poms and they jump on it in a heartbeat.
The latest opportunity, the furore surrounding the late night nightclub incident in Bristol involving England cricketer Ben Stokes, is perhaps inevitable. And with the Ashes Tour in Australia set to get underway in just over a month, the timing for our antipodean cousins to dig the knife in could not have been any better.
As you would expect, the Australian media have gone to town.
Sydney Morning Herald journalist Malcolm Knox feels the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are “contorting themselves into a pretzel in an attempt to retain both Ben Stokes and their principles” and that “England’s desperate desire to win the series in Australia can be measured by Stokes not having been sacked”.
He adds “the case is surely open and shut” and that “Stokes cannot possibly tour Australia and must face a lengthy ban from cricket.”
— Lisa Davies (@lisazdavies) September 28, 2017
The Canberra Times suggests “there is a belief that an Australian player would have had his contract torn up had he behaved in such a way.”
— Andrew Wu (@wutube) September 27, 2017
The Herald Sun report that Andrew Strauss risks being “judged a hypocrite” if he lets Stokes play for England again, let alone tour Australia for the Ashes.
— Herald Sun Sport (@heraldsunsport) September 26, 2017
If that’s what they have come out with now, imagine what they will say when the case does go to court and the ECB have to decide on what to do with Stokes before England fly out to Australia on 28 October for the five-match Test series which begins in Brisbane on 23 November.
Strangely enough whilst the Australia media are in a frenzy jumping up and down and spitting poison in Stokes’ and the ECB’s direction at the whole situation, they do tend to have small memories, especially when it comes to a similar instance involving one of their own cricketing heroes.
It was only four years ago that proverbial hot-head David Warner infamously set about and punched Joe Root during the 2013 Ashes series in England. The incident, in the Walkabout bar in Birmingham city centre was called “an unprovoked physical attack” by England in a statement at the time, and was said to have been sparked by Warner taking offence at Root wearing a wig on his chin, believing he was mocking South Africa’s Hashim Amla. The young baby-faced Yorkshireman labelled this explanation “ridiculous” before the pair went on to bury the hatchet during the 2015 Ashes series.
One of the biggest mysteries of #Ashes history is why David Warner would punch Joe Root when Stuart Broad was standing RIGHT THERE.
— Adam Liaw (@adamliaw) July 9, 2015
Strangely enough, whilst there was coverage at the time, not a lot was mentioned at the time by the hacks in the southern hemisphere. And has been since. Double standards? Perhaps, but having seen first-hand how they operate albeit nearly 20 years ago now, it is nothing new where Australians are concerned. They will back and champion their own to the hilt, but woe betide any enemy or outsider should they make one step out of line.
Ironically after Warner found himself with a second Cricket Australia disciplinary hearing inside a month, he has suggested that his late-night swing at Root proved to be a turning point in his career, this after a series of, for a better phrase, other discipline issues.
And so it has proved with Warner now a peripheral figure in the Australian line-up, a pillar for them at the top of the batting order and seen him produce some career defining performances.
Time to change
Maybe once the dust has settled, the same will come of Stokes who has immense talent with both bat and ball, but has not exactly covered himself in glory with on and off-field demeanours in recent years.
Along with team-mate Matt Coles, he was sent home from the 2013 England Lions tour to Australia for late night drinking, ignoring a written warning they received earlier in the tour.
Inexplicably forgot the Matt Coles 🐌 celebration
— Vithushan Ehantharajah (@Vitu_E) September 29, 2017
In March 2014 Stokes fractured his right hand after punching a locker in frustration during an England tour of the West Indies, which forced him to miss the World Twenty20. A year later in April 2015, his verbal spat with West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels saw the latter give him an ironic salute during a Test match in St Georges.
October and November 2016 was just as eventful as first Stokes is fined and receives a demerit point on his disciplinary record after an exchange with Bangladesh batsman Sabbir Rahman, before a month later he receives an official reprimand from the ICC after an exchange with India captain Virat Kohli during a Test match in Mohali.
Only time will tell and one hopes that this whole sorry episode will bring a new perspective for Stokes, whatever the decision of the pending court case brings.
In the meantime, with the Ashes series drawing ever closer and the chance to ramp up the war of words to try and out the visitors off their game, don’t expect the short-sighted Australian media and public to ease off in their vitriol of Stokes and the ECB.