Oh the irony as Canterbury bad boy Ken McClure is replaced by Ben Stokes
- Canterbury batsman Ken McClure has been stood down after being arrested
- ‘He’s let himself down, the team down and us as an organisation,’ said club chief
- Now Ben Stokes hopes to represent them as he prepares to return to the Ashes
- ECB claim he is on a trip to see relatives, but they know it serves a handy purpose
Ken McClure is an unremarkable, right-hand top-order batsman for Canterbury in New Zealand, who is about to get his 15 minutes of fame.
On September 10, during a pre-season tour with his club, East Christchurch Shirley, McClure got involved in an altercation with another man after a few drinks, which turned violent. He was arrested and charged with injuring with reckless disregard.
Found guilty last Friday, McClure will be sentenced on January 19. In the meantime, he has been stood down. He will not represent Canterbury until after that date, at least.
Canterbury's Ken McClure has been stood down following an altercation which turned violent
Ben Stokes was pictured on Twitter on Monday night lugging his gear through Heathrow
‘He’s let himself down, the team down and us as an organisation,’ said Canterbury chief executive Jez Curwin.
‘We expect a certain level of behaviour on and off the pitch from everyone who represents us. Canterbury cricketers are role models for many youngsters in the region. They need to be mindful and behave responsibly. Representing us is an honour, not a given right.’
But in the meantime: hello Ben Stokes. Incredibly, given what has just transpired with McClure, it is Canterbury that Stokes hopes to represent in limited-over and Twenty20 matches, as he prepares to return to the Ashes.?
The irony is not lost on that place to Canterbury’s west: Australia. Suffice to say, if Canterbury do allow Stokes to get his eye in, the McClure question could be raised quite frequently in the coming days.
Stokes did not travel Down Under with the rest of the England squad for the Ashes this winter
There will be questions, too, for the ECB, who counselled that there were no developments on Stokes in Brisbane on Monday, knowing that he was boarding a flight to New Zealand at Heathrow later that day.
Australian commentators have been claiming for weeks that the ECB are playing a game and Stokes will be rushed back for the Ashes, their suspicions rejected by trusting visitors who felt certain the official line was sincere.
Now everyone feels a little foolish — not least the ECB communications department, who were left out of the loop and utterly blindsided when pictures of Stokes carrying kit at the airport emerged late on Monday.
This is becoming a circus. The ECB message has centred on process and procedure. The first stage was to wait until Stokes was charged, or cleared. There was no mention of him appearing as a ringer for Canterbury, of him rocking up in the southern hemisphere to be fast-tracked in time for the third Test in Perth, if possible.
That now seems the likely timetable, if no charge results. In those circumstances, it could be argued, Stokes would have every right to play.
The ECB may claim Stokes is on a trip to see relatives, but they know it serves a handy purpose
Yet the Canterbury agreement — and the ECB will clear him to play as soon as this weekend despite his current suspension from the international game — feels like jumping the gun, like a self-serving reaction to a 10-wicket defeat.
The ECB may claim Stokes is on a personally funded trip to see relatives, but they know it serves a handy purpose. Stokes on southern hemisphere time; Stokes match fit and ready to go.
There remains an ECB procedure to take place, even if there is no criminal charge, but the haste of this latest development promotes cynicism concerning the outcome.
Stokes could be judged to have served a ban — two one-day internationals at the end of last season, plus two Tests — and be free to play at the WACA.
At which point English principles will be called into question here like at no time since Bodyline. And if Stokes is charged? Well, then he can’t play, and this whole distracting spectacle will have been for nothing.
Meanwhile, McClure must wonder why Stokes is considered worthy of the honour of representing Canterbury, while he is not. More than a few Australians will be asking that and other questions when England’s executives break cover in Adelaide, too.
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