In Good Conscience

Stokes could learn so much from Kane's clean-cut example

Imagine for one second if Harry Kane, the only Englishman to get anywhere near Fifa's list of global talents this year, had gone off on a drinking spree and ended up doing the things Ben Stokes is accused of doing.

There would be a world outcry. Footballers, eh, would you let your daughter marry one of those loutish, overpaid thugs?

Not this time. Kane is a paragon, Stokes might be a devil.

Kane was tucked up in bed in the early hours of last Monday morning when Stokes and another England cricketer, Alex Hales, allegedly got themselves into a drunken brawl at a nightclub. Stokes spent what was left of that night in a police cell, being questioned for his involvement in a fight that spilled onto the streets of Bristol, where England had won a one-day international against the West Indies.

Stokes is to English cricket what Kane is to football. He makes things happen, with the bat and the ball. In form, he terrorises even the best of opponents.

Kane, as you will be aware, is on such a streak of scoring form that he has a similar effect on defences across Europe.

Two differences are that Kane never drinks alcohol as he regards that as poison in a sportsman's system. And, while nobody's pushover when it comes to physicality, he channels his aggression towards not being bullied, and to scoring goals.


Ben Stokes will not be picked by England until further notice after allegedly being involved in a fight in Bristol. ST PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

His three in the Champions League this week came via the left foot, right foot, and head. The perfect hat-trick. His celebration was taking home the match ball to his wife and their eight-month-old daughter Ivy.

That makes Kane, 24, the pin-up footballer. Deadly, but polite. Fearless, but playing by the rules. Two people in one, a goal warrior and a dedicated family man.

Whether or not Ben Stokes is a free man when the plane leaves for Melbourne in November, he looks now to be a liability to England - if indeed they lift the ban on his selection.

Stokes? There has been no English all-rounder on his level since Andrew Flintoff, and before him, Ian Botham.

Those two had rough edges, and drink-fuelled pasts, though Botham was knighted and Flintoff's notoriety as well as his unquestioned skills won him his own TV series.

"Colourful" characters are box-office. Quiet, unassuming gents in whites are not great for ratings.

However, an Ashes contest, the Aussies versus the Brits Down Under, gets under way in November. The squad to represent England on that trip was named 48 hours after the nightclub fracas in Bristol.

Stokes was not only picked for that series, but also named as vice-captain.The police had questioned him after the brawl left another man in hospital with facial injuries. The fact that Stokes had a hand injury, apparently a hairline fracture to a finger, led to media speculation.

That was all that it was. Media reports that he was under investigation for assault causing actual bodily harm needed tempering with the fact that police released him, so far without charge.

Less fair in the circumstances was everyone repeating his long list of persistent misbehaviour on and off the field.

Then came the bombshell. The fight had been captured on somebody's mobile phone and inevitably, the footage came into the hands of a newspaper.

By midweek, The Sun published the video clip of the brawl allegedly involving Stokes. Within hours, and before any confirmation that police charges which could result in a five-year jail sentence for the cricketer, the selectors stated that he will not be chosen again until further notice.

Stokes is said to be "fragile and devastated". He should be. The man in the video looked like a bully and a thug.

Stokes has past indiscretions, including being sent home from a young England Lions tour of Australia in 2013 for repeated late-night drinking, despite an official waning. And he has had other offences, plus a litany of offensive behaviour towards opponents and officials, including abusing a referee last month.

A former captain of England, Michael Vaughan, points out that the Australians will be merciless with their "sledging" (verbal taunts) to wind him up and get him to react. Whether or not Ben Stokes is a free man when the plane leaves for Melbourne in November, he looks now to be a liability to England - if indeed they lift the ban on his selection.

It would be nice to forget him, to ignore his behaviour. Thankfully, there is sport aplenty to admire, and there could be a real thriller on TV tonight between Chelsea and Manchester City.

Yes, it's football, not the genteel game of cricket.

For sure it will be on the edge of competitive sport, and no doubt the referee will be busy with his yellow, possibly even red cards.

But Chelsea, now that they have Eden Hazard back and Alvaro Morata has seamlessly taken over from that other bad boy Diego Costa, have already shown that they can overcome a bad start and make a decent fist of defending their EPL title.

Forgive the word "fist", by the way.

City, with Kevin de Bruyne now developing into the perfect version of soccer's quarterback, have had a flier to the season. But nobody and nothing is perfect. Yesterday, Man City were anxiously assessing Sergio Aguero, the striker within one goal of the club's all-time scoring record.

Aguero was innocent of any wrongdoing, but was injured when the taxi taking him to Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on Thursday evening was involved in a motorway accident.

City have more than enough firepower without one particular forward, but Aguero had convinced Pep Guardiola of his reliability and his work ethic.

It just goes to show that we are all human, and nobody is immune to the law of accidents or incidents.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 30, 2017, with the headline 'Stokes could learn so much from Kane's clean-cut example'. Print Edition | Subscribe