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Former England captain Mike Atherton has slammed the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) for including all-rounder Ben Stokes in the national team for the upcoming tour of New Zealand.
Stokes appeared in Bristol Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to a charge of affray.
The charge against Stokes stems from a street brawl outside the Mbargo nightclub in Bristol last September.
Stokes has not played any international cricket since then, but he is poised to make his comeback at some point in the forthcoming ODI series against New Zealand as he departed for the country on Wednesday as he will not be required to attend a hearing on March 12.
England head coach Trevor Bayliss has confirmed that Stokes will not play in the ongoing T20 tri-series, and nor will he feature in the first ODI against the Black Caps, which will take place on February 25 in Hamilton.
However, Atherton reiterated that the ECB should have continued to leave Stokes out of the squad for the tour of New Zealand.
“It would be hard not to have a high degree of sympathy for governing bodies in these situations,” Atherton wrote in his column for The Times as quoted by stuff.co.nz. “Alleged misdemeanours can vary in seriousness, as can the consequences, and so there are no hard and fast rules to follow. That said, the best that can be offered for the ECB’s decision-making as Stokes lands in New Zealand (on Thursday) having missed the entire Ashes series, is that it is highly illogical; at worst, it is feeble and expedient.”
While Atherton is against the idea of Stokes returning for the tour of New Zealand, England batsman Dawid Malan expressed his delight at having the all-rounder back in the team.
“To have him and around the team is fantastic, especially in the shorter format. It allows you to balance the team and play another batter or another bowler. Someone like Stokesy is invaluable,” Malan was quoted as saying by Sky Sports.