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Canterbury agonise over Stokes comeback

While Ben Stokes keeps a low profile, the prospect of him returning to action in New Zealand has brought a mixed response

David Hopps
David Hopps
The Canterbury cricket board has held an emergency meeting in Christchurch as protests broke out about the prospect of Ben Stokes returning to action this weekend.
Stokes did not attend the meeting, but kept a low profile with his family in Christchurch after his arrival on a Singapore Airlines flight to New Zealand attracted considerable media attention.
After hugging his parents, Gerard and Deb, Stokes, stern faced, remained largely silent about the investigation by Avon and Somerset police into his part in a fracas outside a Bristol nightclub in late September.
As he wheeled several large cricket bags out of the airport, he deadbatted questions by suggesting that he had arrived in New Zealand to see his parents and work on his golf swing.
Canterbury's coach, Gary Stead, has supported the idea of Stokes playing at the Mainpower Oval in Rangiora this weekend in a one-day Ford Trophy match against Otago.
"I think if you get someone like that, then let's do it," Stead told an Australian radio station on Wednesday.
But as howls of outrage carried from Australia across the Tasman Sea, it was clear that opposition to the idea was also building.
Peter Fulton, who retired from international cricket last year after 16 seasons with Canterbury, told ""If he can't play for [England], I would question whether he should be playing for Canterbury. It would depend on what his legal situation is really. He hasn't been charged with anything."
Match practice would be a boon for Stokes, who was born in Christchurch and moved with his family to Cumbria at the age of 12. If police decided not to charge him, he could conceivably return to England's side in time for the third Test in Perth.
The ECB Board is poised to meet within 48 hours to consider any police decision and, if no charges resulted, they could take the view that any ban could be served retrospectively from the moment they withdrew him indefinitely from international cricket pending the police investigation.
But the Canterbury situation is complicated by the actions of Ken McClure, a young Canterbury batsman, who withdrew from representative cricket on Friday after he pleaded guilty to a charge of injuring with reckless disregard.
McClure assaulted a man in September on a pre-season trip for his Christchurch club side. He has been remanded for sentencing until January 19 and won't play for Canterbury until that has been sorted by the courts. Unlike McClure, Stokes has not been charged, but parallels were being drawn.
The comments from Canterbury's chief executive Jez Curwin have received particular attention. "We expect a certain level of behaviour on and off the pitch from everyone that represents us," Curwin said earlier this week. Fulton concluded: "From a cricketing point of view, it makes all the sense in the world, but from the other point of view, it gets a little bit more complicated."

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps