The hooligan in an arrogant team

Ben Stokes.
Ben Stokes.
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It’s some talent the England cricket team have in turning the public against them just when things improve on the pitch.

Whether it’s disrespectfully taking a wee on the Oval outfield after completing an Ashes win or recalling a savage hooligan with indecent haste after an unedifying court case and thus breaking up a winning team, England continue to inflict serious harm on their own image.

Out of his depth Ollie Pope.

Out of his depth Ollie Pope.

England were so good at Lord’s in the second Test against India it seemed like the perfect antidote to an ugly court case involving their star all-rounderBen Stokes.

England could also celebrate excellence from youngster Sam Curran. They were a happy camp, one not missing the scowling presence of Stokes.

But, to the surprise of anyone who had seen the footage from that video when a rather defenceless bloke was knocked senseless to the ground, Stokes was cleared of affray and two hours later was back in the England squad for the third Test.

Did the fools who made that selection decision not realise how that looked? Obviously not as they promptly decided to put Stokes (right) in the team ahead of a no doubt crestfallen Curran.

Stokes hadn’t even apologised for so obviously bringing cricket into disrepute, not publicly anyway. He still hasn’t. He hid behind his solicitor outside court and convinced captain Joe Root he was good to play and the skipper meekly acquiesced.

There’s an arrogance about elite sportsmen that, they think, makes them superior to those who turn up and watch. They seem to believe we should just accept what they do without a murmur of protest, even to the point of airbrushing a thuggish attack from our memories.

Cricketers care little about fans generally. The hopeless over rates and the constant time-wasting lead to supporters getting short changed on outrageous ticket prices on a daily basis at a Test match.

Anyway the decision to recall Stokes proved a shocker. Lost in the fuss about his recall, pundits seemed to forget Stokes is no Ian Botham. He comes off now and again to spectacular effect, but lacks consistency.

I’d never go as far as saying I hope England lose, but there was definitely a feeling of wanting Stokes to fail.

It’s wrong of course to blame the defeat on a nonsensical selection. England’s batting line-up is too frail at the top and too wild in the middle order (arrogantly they refuse to change, particularly their dimwitted skipper) and there don’t appear to be too many potential replacements knocking the door down to get in.

And that’s a shame for Jimmy Anderson who has been quite brilliant in the current series’ He’d have brilliant figures to match if England could catch.

The seam bowling has generally been excellent, although the inclusion of the hooligan ahead of Curran made the attack rather one dimensional at Trent Bridge.

And now England have many tough decisions to make for the fourth Test against buoyant opposition. I don’t trust Root and his cohorts to make those decisions. Not if out-of-his-depth Ollie Pope is their benchmark.