On the Christchurch outskirts, the Mainpower Oval in Rangiora is braced for the contest of highest profile in its history as Ben Stokes is prepared to play his first game of cricket on Sunday since he got arrested as he was alleged to be involved in a street fight in Bristol in September.
Stokes caused an impression last week by being spotted with his full cricket kit at Heathrow Airport and has agreed the terms to play for Canterbury in their domestic matches, beginning with an ODI off Otago in Ford Trophy. The ECB granted him with a No Objection Certificate on November 24 and led him to a speculation that he was being primed for a recall of England as soon as third Test on Ashes at Perth, beginning from December 14.
However, Somerset and Avon Police confirmed last week to pass their complete file to seek advice to the Crown Prosecution Service, as to whether he should be charged for what he did on September 25, a development which made his expectations of having him in the Ashes.
Nonetheless, he settled himself in at Canterbury with his new teammates and spoke clearly to the reporters at Rangiora at a nets session Saturday morning, before his team embarks on another Test at Adelaide against Australia.
Stokes stated the Daily Telegraph, “I had been trying hard enough so it will be good for me to put it into practice. I believe it will be good also for the club and I am looking ahead to get out there and win hopefully.”
“I have met a few of the teammates in Canterbury for the first time today. I knew that a few of them are the younger teammates as they would come over on a programme in Durham. So, I feel great to know a few guys as it is always difficult to come in a new team when it’s your first time to meet them. So, it was great to meet a few friendly people.”
Gary Stead, director of cricket, Canterbury added, “Ben is very excited to play cricket. He also reminded me of a young child who just wanted to get out and play cricket. I just can’t remember the time when more interest has been in any match I have played ever in or been indulged in New Zealand. There has been more interest from different parts of the world.”
There are still doubts for some people about his signing in the cases, including Canterbury’s former skipper, Peter Fultun. For Brendan Donkers, the one-day coach of the club, his arrival brings benefits in spin-offs.
“With average age of around 23 to 24 years, we are basically a young group. So, to have a person o his experience and quality literally lifts up the standards. Some people believe that we would be fool if we don’t let him play and some believe we would be fool if we let him play. But it is fantastic in cricket front,” said Donkers.