England 'not thugs' but must behave - Strauss

It's come up on Australia's first good day in the field - Root (1:33)

England captain Joe Root downplayed the seriousness of Jonny Bairstow's headbutt of Cameron Bancroft and believes his team pushed Australia hard at the Gabba (1:33)

Andrew Strauss has said England's cricketers are "not thugs" but need to be smarter if they are to improve the perception the public currently have of them. Strauss, the director of England cricket, insisted he would back his players and did not believe an alcohol ban was necessary, but suggested "a bit of naivety" was damaging their image at present.

He was talking as details of the incident involving Jonny Bairstow and Cameron Bancroft came to light. While Strauss said he accepted Bairstow's explanation of events - repeating there was "no malice, no intent and no aggression in what he did" - he did call on the players to use their intelligence in the wake of the Ben Stokes affair and ensure they do not "put themselves in a position to be targeted".

As a result, he addressed the entire squad in Brisbane on Monday night to make clear the rules regarding England's attitude to alcohol and nights out. While that will not involve an absolute ban on drinking, it does seem likely the rules will be tightened and clarified - with the possibility of a midnight curfew being imposed for the rest of the tour.

But Strauss also made the point that the players had to be aware that, during an Ashes tour, there would be people looking to catch them out (on and off the pitch) and that, as the game sought to appeal to a new generation of supporters, they had to understand the changing nature of their responsibilities.

"Jonny told me he bumped Cameron Bancroft," Strauss said. "It's a greeting thing he does with his mates.

"Although I'm slightly surprised he would choose to do such a thing, I'm taking him at his word. As such, I don't think it would appropriate for us to be launching disciplinary proceedings against him.

"There was no curfew on that night. He'd had a couple of drinks but I don't think he was inebriated. Nothing untoward happened at any time. Our security were very comfortable with their behaviour and that is the reason it has been a complete non-event up until now. No one knew about it because they didn't do anything wrong and this situation has somewhat surprised all of us.

"But what might have been acceptable in the old days is no longer acceptable. We, as an England cricket team and I suppose cricket as a sport, need to move along with that. So no one is underplaying this.

"Something that was very innocent and kind of banter in a way, given the context and environment we're operating in at the moment, can be construed as something completely different. And if that is not clear to the players right now, I don't know when it will be.

"All I'm saying is that the world has moved on. Certainly, in light of the Ben Stokes situation, there is attention on us that there wasn't previously and we need to move with that. I think the guys do understand: it is very crystal clear to them now that if you put yourself in a position to have a go at you, they probably will do that now. This is an incident of our own making.

"These guys are not thugs. These are good, honest, hard-working cricketers who sacrifice a lot to play for England. They've done some great things in an England shirt and I will back them on that to the hilt because I know them.

"But the perception of them and the reality is different at the moment and we've got to take steps to make sure that reality is what people perceive of the England cricket team, not something different. The last thing any of us want is to be in the news for the wrong reasons and I will clearly be reminding the players of their obligations.

"I think the players needs to be smarter. That's the reality, they are adults, intelligent adults, and at times they are not using that intelligence in the right way."

That will not mean an absolute ban on alcohol or nights out. Strauss knows, from his own experience, the need for players to escape the bubble of cricket and have a release for the sometimes intense life of a touring professional. But, with the ECB reeling from the fallout of the Stokes incident and trying hard to market an image of a wholesome sport that it suitable for the entire family, any semblance of scandal is best avoided. It is, as he admits, a tough balancing act.

"I think it is unrealistic to say to someone 'you're going on a five-month tour and you can't have a drop of alcohol'," Straus said. "I think there are times in the build-up to a match and when you're in a match when alcohol is inappropriate from a performance point of view but I don't think that [an absolute ban] is appropriate.

"It is impossible to stay in a hotel room for five months and keep your sanity. I know that for a fact. So people have to be allowed a degree of freedom to go out. And it would be one of the great shames of anyone's career to go on a tour and not go out the hotel.

"But there is no way that you can or should be putting yourself or the team or the ECB or the game of cricket in a position where people are making judgements about the sport on the back of what you're doing on a night out. And that's what the players need to understand."