Stokes lands in NZ as ECB clears way for him to play
CRICKET: Ben Stokes has landed in New Zealand but still has some hurdles to clear if he is to return to playing cricket this weekend.
The controversial all-rounder remains suspended by the England and Wales Cricket Board for his involvement in a late-night street brawl outside a Bristol nightclub which left a man hospitalised with facial injuries.
But he's already overcome the first roadblock to resuming his playing career in the short-term: on Friday he was handed a No Objection Certificate by the ECB to free him up to play first-class cricket in Canterbury.
The New Zealand-born Stokes arrived in Christchurch on Wednesday, where he was greeted by his parents Barbara and Gerard.
The 26-year-old insists the trip is a personal trip to visit his family, but his arrival has sparked speculation he could turn out for Canterbury as soon as Sunday - when the defending champions play Otago.
Meanwhile, England's Press Association is reporting the ECB has devised a plan to fast-track Stokes into the Ashes squad as quickly as possible.
"It's believed that should UK police clear the 26-year-old over his alleged involvement in a street brawl in September, the England and Wales Cricket Board would convene a board meeting within 48 hours,” the PA report read.
"Following this, a Cricket Discipline Commission procedure, announced under ECB auspices last month, could take place.”
Canterbury coach Gary Snead said the possibility of Stokes joining his team had only been raised in the past "three or four days” and still hadn't been ratified by his own board let alone New Zealand cricket.
"There's no guarantee that Ben Stokes will play for Canterbury at all this year,” Snead told RSN927 on Wednesday morning.
The Canterbury Cricket Board will meet on Wednesday evening to discuss the Stokes situation.
"Ultimately, if our board says 'no', it won't happen,” Snead said
"But if we agree to it then we're hopeful New Zealand cricket (will as well) and it sounds like the ECB have given an NOC already.”
Snead acknowledged that the addition of Stokes, given his current circumstances and the police investigation which hangs over his head, could prove to be a distraction.
But he said the team's senior players had been consulted.
"From my point of view I think if you get someone like that then let's do it,” Snead said.
"We're acutely aware that if this does get across the line there is something else obviously hanging over his head, and that could happen at any stage.
"There's no time period or time frame on that for us.”
Of course, it will all amount to nothing if he is formally charged by the Avon and Somerset Police and is forced to return home.
That would likely end his hopes of an Ashes call-up, although a report in the UK's Daily Mirror suggested Stokes would be parachuted into the England squad in time for the Perth Test regardless of whether he's charged.
"MirrorSport understands that Stokes could be charged by police for his part in a Bristol brawl next week, but crucially his appearance in court may not be scheduled until later in the new year,” the report read.
"That would give the 26-year-old enough time to make his presence felt in the Ashes before facing a possible prosecution thereafter.”