Stokes suffers 'minor fracture', retains vice-captaincy pending internal investigation
Ben Stokes will retain the England Test vice-captaincy for now, despite having suffered a fractured hand in the nightclub incident that led to his arrest in Bristol on Monday morning. Andrew Strauss, England's director of cricket, said that the matter had not been fully resolved but Stokes would stay in the role pending an internal disciplinary process ahead of the Ashes.
Although Strauss would not confirm how the injury to Stokes' right hand came about, it is believed to have been sustained during a confrontation that left a man in hospital. It is an incident that has jeopardised Stokes' England future - even though he was included in the touring party for Australia, the potential of further action will hang over him, both for as long as it takes Somerset and Avon Police to conclude their investigation and for Strauss to conduct an internal review of the England team culture.
"Right now is not the time to comment on what may or may not happen from a disciplinary point of view," Strauss said. "At the moment I am speaking to the players individually to get their accounts of what went on on Sunday night. There is a disciplinary protocol in place as part of their conditions of employment, and we need to follow that for all players who may be subject to disciplinary proceedings, including Ben."
Despite the severity of the charge hanging over Stokes, there remains a reluctance from the England management to micro-manage the activities of their players, either on or off the field.
"It is my view, and a view shared by Trevor Bayliss, that we should treat people like adults and give players personal responsibility on and off the pitch," Strauss said. "It's how we get the best results on the pitch and how we ensure a harmonious environment off the pitch.
"When things like this happen, it's a moment to step back and ask if we do everything exactly right," he added. "We'll be looking at that in the coming days. Instinctively I still think that philosophy is the way to go, but it is important that the players understand and recognise their responsibility as international cricketers, and what potential damage can be done to the England team and the sport if we are not seen to be good role models for the game."
Speaking on Sky ahead of the fourth ODI at The Oval, Bayliss, England's head coach, said that Stokes remained a worthy deputy to Root on purely cricketing grounds, but admitted that his actions in Bristol had been unprofessional, irrespective of the police involvement.
"What he has shown so far for us is that he is a leader within the group when it comes to cricket - there is no denying that," Bayliss said. "I'm sure there will be some investigations going forward. But at the moment I am quite happy for him to be the vice-captain.
It is believed that as many as five England players, including Stokes, Alex Hales, Jake Ball and James Anderson - who was in Bristol as a Sky pundit - went out in Bristol in the aftermath of England's victory in Sunday's third ODI. However, Stokes and Hales became separated from the rest of the group ahead of the incident, with Hales returning to Bristol voluntarily to help police with their inquiries. It was a state of affairs, Bayliss admitted, that might require the imposition of a team curfew in the future.
"Certainly we will be looking into that," he said. "I have been with teams before and we have had curfews and that doesn't work either. Whichever way you go, a lot of the responsibility comes back on to the players. They are adults and they have to take responsibility. They are professionals. The other night a few guys being out was very unprofessional in the middle of a series."
Straus said: "It is is early days. I am just beginning to establish what went on over the course of that evening. And the disciplinary process will flush that out. But I don't anticipate those enquiries being finished before the end of the one-day series.
"As part of the disciplinary process we are obviously going to look at what went on on Sunday night and any other relevant information."
Asked if there might yet be changes to the Ashes squad based on his investigations into the incident, Strauss added: "It is very hard for me to pre-judge anything until we have been through the process. I don't want to speculate on the facts."
On the specifics of Stokes' injury, however, Strauss confirmed that he had suffered a "minor fracture" but at this stage he is expected to fly out to Australia with the main squad on October 30, and be fit to play in the Ashes opener at Brisbane on November 23.
"There are further tests that need to be done but at this stage he is expected to be able to play a full part in all the Ashes Tests," Strauss said. "All we can do is deal with what we know and what we are in control of. We have no idea how things will pan out and it would be wrong for us to second-guess that in any way - so we are judging our Ashes selection on the basis of what we know and what we are in control of."
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket