Ben Stokes looks set to play the entire IPL season but might not feature for England again before the end of 2018 if he is charged in connection with events outside a Bristol bar in September.
While Stokes was recently named in England’s ODI squad for the matches in Australia, he will not appear for the team – or travel on tour – until a decision is made by the police and Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) over whether to proceed with criminal charges over the incident in which Stokes was arrested.
If the CPS does decide to issues charges, the ECB believes it could take between six and 12 months to resolve irrespective of any action the board or the Cricket Disciplinary Committee (CDC) take as a consequence. It remains unlikely he will be considered for England selection until any potential trial is resolved.
But the ECB is, according to its chief executive, Tom Harrison, unlikely to resist any attempt by Stokes to appear in the IPL and is minded to grant a No Objection Certificate (NOC) if and when it is required. Stokes is also likely to be made available for his county side Durham.
Stokes won the Most Valuable Player award at the 2017 IPL having been bought by Rising Pune Supergiant for around 1.7m. News that he could be available for the whole tournament in 2018 may see his value rise further. Bearing in mind that Stokes remains on full pay by the ECB – though he receives none of the match fees he might normally have expected – and he could find his period out of the national side unusually lucrative.
Stokes returns to England this weekend to spend Christmas with his family after a brief stint playing for Canterbury in New Zealand. He is not expected to return and it is safe to say his slim hopes of appearing in the current Ashes series departed with him.
“Ben asked for an NOC to play in New Zealand and we were happy to grant one,” Harrison said on Saturday. “What he does with his time is up to him. He remains on full pay.
“It’s up to Ben to decide if he wants to play in the IPL. We could say we don’t want him to go but I imagine that, having given him an NOC to go and play in New Zealand, it would be difficult for us to say we would not apply the same thinking towards playing in other parts of the world.”
While Harrison was reluctant to be drawn on the potential sanctions the ECB may impose on Stokes, the feeling is the mood against him has toughened in recent weeks. Sensing the image of the game may have been tainted by accusations of a drinking culture, the ECB has already cracked down on Ben Duckett – who was suspended for the end of the Lions tour of Australia and then not considered for selection for their tour of the Caribbean after a silly incident in a bar in Perth – and is keen to reassert the sport’s suitability for family viewing and mainstream sponsors.
The inclusion of Stokes in the limited-overs squad may have given his supporters hope of a swift return but might be best viewed as a legal nicety to ensure the ECB is not seen to be prejudicing any investigation or potential case with an insinuation of wrong doing.
To that end, the ECB board will meet within 48 hours of an announcement of a decision over whether Stokes will be prosecuted to decide what next steps to take. Stokes will also face a CDC hearing at the end of any possible criminal hearing, though it is possible the board will have stolen its thunder.
“What happened in Bristol was a very bad thing for the game and for the reputation of the game,” Harrison said. “You never want to see the game in that position. What we have to understand is how we respond to that and how we rebuild reputations of the individuals involved and the team.
“The reality is we’ve built up a lot of trust with the public over the past two or three years with the way in which the team have played and the way in which they were connecting and becoming very accessible. Obviously some of that is impacted by off-the-field things like what happened in Bristol. It was a shocking day for the game. But we will rebuild that trust and we will get back to a situation where the public feel connected to the England team as they have done.
“In respect of Ben’s situation, the CDC process will take place at the end of his criminal proceedings if there should be any. The ECB board’s decision will probably pre-empt anything that comes out of the CDC. From a board decision it is about disrepute and the reputation of the game. The CDC is purely about disrepute and cricket-related charges and it has to wait until after the criminal proceedings have happened.
“If the indications are accurate any likely situation could be six to 12 months away. After that the CDC process will take place and will take note of any sanctions that have already been served.”