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Andrew Strauss: Ben Stokes Bristol saga was a ‘blessing in disguise’ for England

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Andrew Strauss believes that the Ben Stokes brawl incident in Bristol in 2017 was a “blessing in disguise” in helping change England’s team culture.

The all-rounder was arrested after his involvement in a fight on a night out following an ODI between England and West Indies in September 2017. He was later found not guilty of affray in August 2018 but was forced to miss the 2017/18 Ashes.

Strauss, who was England’s director of cricket at the time of the incident, believes England’s “cricket culture was better” for the fallout despite the initial damage caused. 

“That was a massive spanner in the works because I think for all of us it made us realise that no matter what you do on the park there are certain things that can happen off the pitch that can be far more damaging than anything that can happen on the pitch,” Strauss told the Sky Sports Cricket Podcast.

“Losing a series is a bit of a step back but it’s not a big deal, whereas losing our best player for an extended period of time, having to reshape the team as a result of that, constantly having to bat off all these questions about the England team culture, drinking and all that stuff, was incredibly damaging.

“We had this other project going on around the England team culture. You think back to that dinner we had for all past England players, that was a way of making people appreciate just how fortunate they were to play cricket for England, but also the responsibilities that came with that.

“I think in retrospect, what happened to Ben Stokes was a bit of a blessing in disguise for us because what it did is it forced the players to appreciate that culture bit was actually really important.

“What we had was Joe Root and Eoin Morgan buy into that and the England players taking ownership of it. By the time the World Cup came there were some pretty strong embedded rules – rules isn’t the right way to describe it – there was a way of being in that environment that meant you weren’t just judged on your performance but how you were as an England player as well.”

Strauss also praised Stokes for his reaction to the incident and argued that the saga has been to the benefit of the player who was Player of the Match in last summer’s World Cup final as England defeated New Zealand.

“He’s been very mature about it, he’s come out of the other side, understood that having his England career taken away from him for a period of time makes him appreciate it more,” Strauss said. “And he’s absolutely focused on making the best of it. We’ve just seen some outrageous performances from him over the last 12 months or so. Not because of what’s happened, because he had that in him anyway. But that moment could have destroyed his England career and I think he’s actually a better player for going through it.”


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