DURHAM will leave Ben Stokes in no doubt that he is in danger of squandering his prodigious talent following his early exit from the England Lions tour of Australia for disciplinary reasons.
The 21-year-old all-rounder, who recently became a father, was sent home along with Kent seamer Matt Coles, apparently for what was deemed excessive drinking following an earlier written warning.
A brief Durham statement said they were disappointed and Stokes would meet with the club’s cricket management team on his return.
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They can be expected to read the riot act after fining him a year ago following his arrest for obstructing a policeman in his duty in another drink-related incident.
Durham took a dim view of Liam Plunkett’s second conviction for drink-driving last year and allowed him to leave for Yorkshire. But they will be determined to get Stokes back on track and can expect help from his father, Ged, a tough former New Zealand Rugby League international.
After his sensational first full season of first team cricket in 2011, Stokes was hailed as the next Andrew Flintoff and before the year was out he played in five one-day matches for England and two Twenty20 internationals.
England coach Andy Flower was said to be unimpressed by Stokes’ brush with the law and he did not appear in any senior England squads last year, when a lack of discipline in his batting contributed to a slump in his form.
His quick bowling improved markedly, however, reinforcing the impression that he could become a genuine Testclass all-rounder. But he will now need at least one full season of performing exceptionally well and staying out of trouble if he is to get back in the reckoning.
Both Stokes and Coles had been issued with written warnings for “contravening their conduct obligations” on the tour and the second incident has seen them booted out of the tour party with three matches remaining.
David Parsons, ECB performance director, said both players had ignored directives given to them for match preparation and recovery.
“On a very challenging tour to Australia, both Matt and Ben have ignored the instructions and, following previous warnings, it is regrettable that it has been necessary to terminate their involvement in the tour,” he said.
“Both are very talented individuals and it is hoped that, with the support of the ECB and their respective counties, they will take positive steps to give themselves the very best chance of fulfilling their potential.”
Stokes had not been in the best of form. He played in the opening four matches of the Australia tour and scored 41 off 15 balls in the second warm-up, otherwise his scores were nought, five, 11 and 13 not out. He had taken two wickets.