Ben Stokes: England all-rounder can still be a role model, says ECB chief
Ben Stokes can still be a role model despite his part in a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in September 2017, says England and Wales Cricket Board chief executive Tom Harrison.
England all-rounder Stokes, 27, was cleared of affray in August.
He missed five months of England games, including the Ashes, and was fined £30,000 by the Cricket Disciplinary Commission (CDC) earlier this month.
"Ben is a leader in the England team," Harrison told BBC Sport.
When asked if Stokes can still be a role model for English cricket, Harrison said: "I do think he can - he's been through a year that will serve as a constant reminder of how quickly things can go wrong if you allow them.
"He's got great people around him, he's got good support structures and I'm sure he's learnt a lesson."
Stokes was stripped of his role as vice-captain of the Test side but, since the conclusion of the legal proceedings against him, has reaffirmed himself as one of England's most important players, including playing a key part in their 3-0 Test series win in Sri Lanka.
The Durham all-rounder pleaded guilty to all ECB charges over the fight and an "inappropriate video" on social media in a case ruled on by the CDC, which is independent from the ECB.
Together with the fine, the CDC decided to suspend Stokes for eight matches, all of which had been served, meaning he is available for England's tour of the West Indies, which starts in January.
Harrison said the sanctions were not conveniently timed nor related to Stokes' important role in both the Test and limited-overs sides.
"We have an independent body making these judgements, they are qualified people and this has been a proper process," he said.
"The sanctions handed down are serious, this is not something that's been brushed under the carpet.
"Ben is a key part of the Test and ODI team but I don't think that's got anything to do with the sanctions which have been handed down - the processes have been separate and deliberately so."
After the CDC verdict, Stokes said he had "learned lessons" and apologised to England supporters and the public for "bringing the game into disrepute".
Batsman Alex Hales faced no criminal charges for his part in the fight but was fined £17,500 by the CDC, £10,000 of which is suspended for 12 months, and was banned for six white-ball matches, two of which have been served and the remaining four are suspended.
Harrison said it had been an "incredibly negative episode" for England cricket but felt the game is now "ready to forgive and move on".
2019 World Cup and Ashes 'a gilt-edged opportunity'
Next year will see England host the Cricket World Cup for the first time since 1999, before a summer Ashes series against Australia.
"We've got huge plans for making sure the Cricket World Cup is a platform on which we grow the game in England and Wales," Harrison said.
"It is an unbelievable opportunity for English cricket, it's up to us to make sure we take advantage of that. And for the first time you sense we have this gilt-edged opportunity to take people from the white-ball game directly into the Ashes series which immediately follows the World Cup.
"It's a once-in-a-generation opportunity. I'm giddy with excitement about 2019."
He said the opportunity was not just about being able to "inspire people to pick up a bat and ball" - it was also about being able to "use the power of cricket to connect communities, to enrich their lives".
He explained: "It's really important the engagement of the World Cup goes way beyond what happens on a live TV signal. We've got 700,000 tickets to sell, we've had 2.9million applications, so there's no question that there's a sense something massive is happening to the game in this country. People want to be part of it."