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Stokes, Coles dismissed from Lions tour

Alex Winter

February 20, 2013

Comments: 25 | Text size: A | A

Ben Stokes launches one through the leg side, Victorian XI v England Lions, Tour match, Melbourne, February 11, 2013
Ben Stokes and fellow youngster Matt Coles have been sent home for poor discipline © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Matt Coles | Ben Stokes
Series/Tournaments: England Lions tour of Australia

Ben Stokes, the Durham allrounder, and Kent quick bowler Matt Coles have been sent home from England Lions' tour of Australia for unprofessional conduct.

Both players had previously been issued with written warnings for "contravening their conduct obligations" on the tour and a second incident has seen them dropped from 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.

"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. There will be no replacement players called up to the squad as a result of this matter."

Stokes, 21, is seen as one of England's brightest prospects with the potential to eventually fulfil the allrounder role that hasn't been filled since Andrew Flintoff retired. He made his full ODI debut aged 20 against Ireland in August 2011 and has played five ODIs.

He played the opening four matches of the Australia tour, scoring 41 off just 15 balls in the second warm-up and took 1 for 40 in the first unofficial ODI with his right-arm medium pace.

It is not the first time he has been reprimanded for his behaviour. In Decemeber 2011 he was arrested for obstructing a policeman in his duty, in what was believed to be a drink-related incident.

Coles, 22, was rewarded for his excellent season at Kent in 2012, taking 59 first-class wickets at 22.35. He took 2 for 58 in the second warm-up and played the both of the opening matches against Australia A.

But a lack of discipline has denied both players the opportunity to further impress the England management and created a most embarrassing situation. ESPNcricinfo understands that England team director Andy Flower has stopped in Australia to observe the Lions squad en route to New Zealand.

"I would like to apologise for the way in which I acted," Ben Stokes said. "I am determined to bounce back from this situation and I regret my actions off the field. I look forward to getting back to my county to start pre-season preparations."

Matt Coles was equally apologetic: "I am very sorry about what has happened in Australia," he said. "I believe I have learnt my lesson. I have apologised to the players and coaches involved, so would now like to move forward from this by looking ahead to the start of the county season at Kent."

England are winless on the tour having lost all three warm-up matches and the opening two unofficial ODIs against Australia A. All but one of the defeats was comprehensive. Three more matches remain in the series against Australia A on February 22 in Hobart and 25 February and March 1 in Sydney.

Alex Winter is an editorial assistant at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by zenboomerang on (February 22, 2013, 1:34 GMT)

@CamS71... Agree, some unusual comments... In comparison a number of Oz cricketers have been similarly sanctioned when attending our Centre of Excellence - Marsh & another sent home for a very similar offence - even Warner & 2 others were sent home for a food fight... The Perth Scorchers t20 team after a "night out" while playing in the CL & got back to Oz - coach & captain quit, the Marsh brothers sent back to Grade cricket, other players sanctioned...

Posted by Meety on (February 21, 2013, 23:58 GMT)

@Nutcutlet on (February 20, 2013, 19:35 GMT) - agree 100%. The players are on the company's time, & rules is rules. Should these lads go onto become great cricketers - I imagine they will look back on this kick up the butt as a turning point in their career. (Did you ever see the Media conference a young black-eyed Punter had to face up to about 15yrs ago?) @ CamS71 on (February 21, 2013, 0:09 GMT) - funnily enuff, statistically, Watson is Flintoffs superior in all forms of the game. That said, in a Test environment I would of selected Flintoff as a specialist bowler, something I could not say about Watson. @Jono Lane - Most of what the England team has achieved over the last 5 years has been on the back of team unity & single purpose. When this was eroded during the KP Text-gate saga, it fell apart. The Flintoff paddle boat fiasco was a similar incident. These guys may not of murdered anybody, but unless they toe the line on discipline, they will be a cancer to the squad.

Posted by CamS71 on (February 21, 2013, 14:27 GMT)

Jonathan Jono Lane @ 12:06 - sorry but that is nonsense. When they sign up for these tours they are given a code of conduct, which isn't even that strict. They're allowed out for drinks & fun, but are expected to behave like professional sportsman & not get hammered. They crossed the line (heard rumour they could barely walk both times) & got a warning that if they did it again they would be sent home. They did & were. I fail to see your problem of how this was handled, or maybe you'd be happy to see every tour a similar shambles to the 06/07 Ashes, where lack of discipline & way too much partying resulted on our (deserved) humiliation.

Posted by brusselslion on (February 21, 2013, 12:18 GMT)

What did they actually do?

Posted by   on (February 21, 2013, 12:06 GMT)

This simply smacks of an irrational intolerance to even the most trifling challenge to authority. As a nation we should nurture those with a will and a mind of their own. They may make mistakes but they will bring far more glory than shame.

Instead of snuffing out the flicker of individuality by applying the full weight of available sanction, these chaps could have been split up to room with different people, they could have been omitted for a game or fined just to mention a few things that might be commensurate with the "crime". The purpose of this tour is to develop young players, how is that achieved by sending them home? Surely better for their development on the field and off to have them on tour, where they can appreciate that their actions have an affect on their own performance and that of the team. I do hope that Flower had nothing to do with this decision. The handling of this incident is so childishly irascible that it is the real source of embarrassment.

Posted by CamS71 on (February 21, 2013, 0:09 GMT)

Jacob: You've made the classic mistake of even asking RandyOz if he knows anything about English cricket. He doesn't & this ignorance is not limited to English cricket. It's all cricket to which his ignorance extends.

Mr Ronan: Watson a better allrounder than Flintoff, laughable & ludicrous in equal measure.

Jeremy Bradshaw: Botham was a one-off who though he liked his pop, never missed training (at least in the early days). However that was 35 years ago & has no relevance to how teams now operate. Nutcutlet was spot on. These two had their fun & got a warning. To transgress again is just dumb. We do not need more Chris Lewis' ta.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 21:58 GMT)

@ Paul Rone-Clarke. Onions, Compton and Panesar are about to join up with the Test team. There's no need for them to be with the second string for what is meant to be a development tour - they'll gain nothing from it. Tremlett is still finding his way to full fitness and Patel is with the full ODI squad. The Lions team contains a number of international players - Hales, Meaker, Stokes and Taylor have all played for England in the past 2 years, whilst Clarke played around 8-10 years ago. You mentioned Kerrigan - he was playing for the reigning County Champions last year, not a Div 2 second XI. Coles took over 50 county wickets at 22 last season. Foakes has impressed in the England youth teams and has broken through at Essex over the past year. The Lions is, rightly, a development squad - if you haven't been paying enough attention to the domestic season to know the players then that's your problem not theirs.

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (February 20, 2013, 20:08 GMT)

@whoster, Yes it is a 'strange opinion', but there's just a hint a jealousy there by our friend: Aus never had a bowler like Flintoff and haven't since, and Watson's taken such a thrashing from the English in so many Ashes Embarrassments for Aus that when you think about it, reactionary opinions such as Ronan's are easily explicable.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (February 20, 2013, 19:35 GMT)

@Jeremy Bradshaw: I'm afraid you are confused! There is a very great distinction between being a character & having character, as I'm sure you're aware. Botham, when playing, performed exceptionally on the field -- and enjoyed life off it (being a character), even if he did occasionally push the envelope a little, esp. in the company of Allan Lamb! He achieved monumental cricketing feats & displayed genuine character many times: he rose to the occasion; took the fight to the opposition, was fiercely competitive (even the hard-bitten Australians thought he'd got an Australian outook!). And what have the Australians got in spades? Character: a set of qualities that makes them traditionally ultra-competitive. These two rookies have not done anything of note on the field in an England shirt. They have therefore not shown character (neither are they 'characters') they just got drunk - two inebriated, privileged young men who'd been granted the honourof representing England - twice!

Posted by wgtnpom on (February 20, 2013, 19:29 GMT)

These two are at the beginning (hopefully not the end) of their international careers and hopefully being sent home will get the message through that they are expected to behave properly while representing their country, especially overseas. The point of a Lions tour is surely to give players their first taste of being an international sportsman - it's not just the "reserves" who didn't make the T20/ODI sides for the senior tour of NZ. Part of this is finding out who hasn't got the intestinal fortitude as well as those that have. At least Stokes and Coles have transgressed in the Lions team rather than the seniors, which would be much more high profile and therefore damaging to them and England's reputation - unlike Mike Tindall at the Rugby World Cup in 2011 or indeed some All Blacks such as Zac Guildford and in earlier times Christian Cullen and Norm Hewitt, who all had well known "discipline issues", but who all maintained top-rank international careers. Andrew Symonds is another...

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 19:07 GMT)

@ Paul Rone-Clarke

Tremlett's recovering from injury, Onions, Panesar and Compton are on their way to NZ to prepare for the Test series and Patel's in NZ already as part of the ODI squad.

And Kerrigan is Lancs' first choice spinner...

Posted by GeoffreysMother on (February 20, 2013, 19:02 GMT)

Somebody should have warned them that the David Boon Cultural Tours are not quite as advertised!

There was a telling interview of Joe Root by Nick Knight in which Root said he found the Lions tours were more pressurised than the real thing. Knight opined the view that this is as it should be because that way you see who has the character to play international cricket and not just the ability. Good time to make the point with 20 something 'stars'.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 18:55 GMT)

Unfortunately for Australia none of these players will be remotely in the frame for the ashes as we've totally got that covered

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 18:32 GMT)

@RandyOz If you knew anything about English cricket you would know that this is nowhere near England's second best XI. The best Lions team would be:

Compton/Carberry Chopra Taylor Hildreth Patel Butler / Bairstow Onions Meaker Harris Tremlett

Posted by Nutcutlet on (February 20, 2013, 16:34 GMT)

@Jonathan Jono Lane: yes, I did wonder whether I was getting on my high horse, but I know what you know & I read that this is a second infringement on tour for both of them. As ever, it's not the people themselves who are a fault, but their behaviour which has let them down, and worse, has let the Lions' squad down as well. Whenever any one of us steps outside our own country we immediately become ambassadors for our country. This is not pompous; the nation is judged, fairly or unfairly, by other nationals by the way in which we behave in their country. ( I've spent a large portion of my life working abroad by the way & thus I have an internat. outlook - it's my default position) we cannot afford to have drink-related behaviour prob. witnessed in public being associated with England & her cricketers without action being taken. Both players have fessed up: that's a start. Lessons have to be learned & sometimes sanctions imposed after a fair warning. Implicitly that had been issued. OK?

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 16:04 GMT)

@Nutcutlet - that's not character you are talking about, Ian Botham was a character and he liked a drink or two - we could do with a few more young Bothams.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 15:17 GMT)

So Englands 4th (or 5th) team lose a couple of players that no-one in the UK has heard of. Not really sure how this is "England A" where are all the players not playing in NZ. Where is Onions, Tremlett, Panesar, Compton, Patel? It seems very few of the top 50 players in England are on this so called "Lions" tour. Kerrigan? Foakes? Who???? Weren't these guys not even certainties for div 2 county sides less than 12 months ago? What are they doing representing England in any form of the game when I could name 25 players that seem to be playing no cricket at all at the moment who are far better? England Lions? England midweek league 5th division reserve team more like.

Posted by whoster on (February 20, 2013, 14:57 GMT)

@Mr_Ronan. Watson comfortably better than Flintoff? What a strange opinion.

Posted by RandyOZ on (February 20, 2013, 14:57 GMT)

I don't think the New Zealander is too worried about missing out on a tour where England is getting beat up time and time again by Australian state sides.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 14:52 GMT)

This looks more like a failure of management and tour leadership to me than anything else. We don't know what the lads are guilty of, but let's assume that they didn't get arrested for anything. Surely the management group should have been able to find a more appropriate solution. Dealing with high jinks on a long tour is bound to be required occasionally. If you want players to be individualistic, then they must have some freedom to make their own mistakes (on and off the field), rather than to be simply bent to the will of management.

@Nutcutlet maybe you should hold back on your pontifications and sermonising until you know what they are guilty of?

Posted by Harlequin. on (February 20, 2013, 13:43 GMT)

How dare these players enjoy their youth?!

Posted by Mr_Ronan on (February 20, 2013, 12:53 GMT)

Looks like these fellas have found a way to escape this disastrous tour by the so-called "Lions"!! Stokes has shown nothing on this tour to suggest that he'll suddenly become an international-standard all-rounder in the mould of Kallis or Watson, both of whom are comfortably better than Flintoff (Kallis obviously much moreso than Watson).

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 11:55 GMT)

Hopefully the two lads can get themselves right and back on track soon because they both have bright futures ahead of them.

Posted by   on (February 20, 2013, 11:24 GMT)

Looks like Stoke is taking the challenge of 'filling the Flintoff role' a little too literally...

Posted by Nutcutlet on (February 20, 2013, 11:18 GMT)

Talent is not enough. Character is a vital component of the successful professional, not just in sport, but in all fields, and character (does it really need spelling out?) means self-discipline, the sort that Joe Root demonstrates, not just in his play but his conduct off the field. He, I am certain, never gives the mangement of the senior squad a moment's trouble. Unfortunately for Coles & Stokes, there are many others who are queueing up to play for England & they have just gone well back in the line. I have been wondering why the Lions haven't done better than they have thus far. Let's hope that the boil has been lanced with the removal of these two.

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