Ben Stokes pleads not guilty to affray, Heads to New Zealand for ODIs

England cricketer Ben Stokes appeared before a Bristol Magistrates’ Court, and pleaded ‘not guilty’ for the charge of affray that was painted on the superstar. Stokes will now finally be able to resume his cricket career as he flies out to New Zealand to play the ODI series, five months after he was found to be involved in the brawl-incident in Bristol City, which had frozen out the 26-year-old all-rounder’s England campaign.

Ben Stokes appeared in court on Tuesday (February 13) with two other men- Ryan Hale and Ryan Ali, who were involved in the Bristol brawl-incident incident, both of whom have also pleaded not guilty, interestingly. While the case will be taken up in a later hearing at Bristol Crown Court, scheduled for 12th march, all the three men, including Ben Stokes, were released on unconditional bail by District Judge Simon Cooper.

Ben Stokes to revive his England campaign, followed by IPL 2018

While Ben Stokes has finally been presented an opportunity to free himself of all the legal troubles and continue his excellent cricket career with England, and the Indian Premier League (IPL 2018), in which the all-rounder was recently bagged in the player auction by the Rajasthan Royals for a huge sum of INR 12.5 crore.
However, what has come as great news for Ben Stokes currently, is the fact that his next court hearing (12th March) will take place after the England and New Zealand ODI series is wrapped, which has presented Stokes with an fresh start to return to his side and play for the Eoin Morgan-led England cricket team.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed on Tuesday (13 Feb), that Ben Stokes will be travelling to Hamilton in New Zealand to join the England team on February 16, ahead of the ODI series between England & New Zealand, that begins on February 25.
As reported by Cricbuzz, an ECB spokesperson said,
“Having entered his plea at Bristol Magistrates Court today, Ben Stokes will now travel to New Zealand to join the England squad. He departs tomorrow, Wednesday 14 February, and will arrive on Friday 16 February, ready to train with England team mates in Hamilton.”
The plan is for the 26-year-old to head out to New Zealand some days before the rest of the England ODI team does, to get back up to speed ahead of the first ODI against New Zealand of the five-ODI series, which would be followed by a two-Test match series as well.

Trevor Bayliss expects Stokes to return at what he does best

As reported by Mirror, England coach Trevor Bayliss said, “He’s (Ben Stokes) looking forward to getting back doing what he does best. I think there’s been players in the past who’ve had off-field issues and some of those guys are able to put that aside and concentrate on cricket. Ben is one those types of guys.”

With Ben Stokes not being required to attend the first court hearing in person, he could play a part in the two Test matches beginning on March 22. However, Stokes’ participation depends solely up to the England cricket team management and head coach Trevor Bayliss, as informed by the ECB.
The ECB statement informed,
“Any decision to include him in upcoming matches will be made by Head Coach Trevor Bayliss and the England management team. He is not currently being considered for the ongoing International T20 Tri-Series.”
“ECB fully respects his (Ben Stokes’) right to defend himself in court and any obligations he has within the legal process will always take precedence over England commitments. It has been confirmed that he will not be required to return to the UK for the first hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Monday 12 March.”

Ben Stokes’s cricketing affairs had stayed frozen

Stokes has not played for England since the brawl-incident during the ODI series against West Indies last summer. He was ousted from the selection for the Ashes series in Australia, but it seems that with the court announcements and Ben Stokes pleading not guilty to the charges of ‘affray’, ECB and Trevor Bayliss are more than ready to have the superstar back and running.


READ: IPL 2018: Jos Buttler says T20 will be the only cricket format in future.