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K.R. Nayar column: Stokes has done disservice to gentleman’s game

Street brawl incident may even hurt his captaincy prospects

19:02 October 1, 2017

Ben Stokes’ brawl outside a Bristol nightclub, that left a man in hospital and the all-rounder with a fractured finger, makes one wonder whether he failed to remember that he was a professional cricketer. Over the years, unsporting acts from renowned cricketers have belittled the game’s image of being a gentleman’s game. So when one of the world’s finest allrounders indulges in a street brawl after a drinking spree at 2 am, it’s nothing but sheer ignorance of his role as a role model for budding cricketers.

While a night out at the pub may well be a part of any team sport’s culture, getting drunk and beating up people (as the CCTV footage in public domain testifies) must be condemned and never justified. The Australian team always celebrates their victories with the bubbly, so it is not that just because one is a famous cricketer he should not drink in public. The problem starts when he forgets that he represents a nation and is a role model for millions of youngsters. As a famous sportsperson, he is duty-bound to uphold the image of being the country’s ambassador above anything else.

Cricketers may well keep in mind that such shameful incidents stick in the minds of the fans and remain as a black mark alongside their stupendous bowling or batting exploits. Cricket fans who recall England allrounder Andy Flintoff’s remarkable abilities as player, also mention how stories of his late night binges, including one during 2007 ICC World Cup, spoiled his image.

Similarly, when one mentions New Zealand’s Jesse Ryder’s power-packed knocks, one also talks in the same breath about how drinking destroyed his career. Australian vice-captain David Warner is considered one of the best batsmen in the business, but the incident when he punched England’s Joe Root after an altercation in a bar in Birmingham during the 2013 Champions Trophy will remain part of his profile.

Stokes had commanded the highest fee for a player in the last Indian Premier League (IPL) auction and that made all fans look up to him in awe. When a cricketer becomes a valuable player, it is also his responsibility to live up to that stature.

The punches that Stokes delivered on the man during the brawl could actually be punches on his own career, given that he had the potential to be England’s future captain. Whether England will consider a cricketer who has indulged in a street brawl to be their captain remains to be seen.

Today, the sport sometimes makes players rich overnight. This, sometimes, takes the focus away from the reality that all the fame and wealth are the result of their hard work and that they need to work harder to remain valuable. The temptation to pamper themselves through an undisciplined lifestyle is what helped bookies trap cricketers. A cricketer who crosses the boundaries of temptation should realise that it does not take any time to slip from fame to shame.