Ben Stokes has never been far from the headlines in recent times, but for reasons that the cricketer would never have wanted to be associated with. Ever since 'that' video went viral, the all-rounder's future in cricket has been up for debate, with many people offering differing perspectives on what that should be.
After the third ODI against the West Indies in September, the footage of Stokes allegedly punching two men outside a Bristol nightclub in the early hours emerged, with the all-rounder subsequently being arrested by the police after the incident.
The events led to Stokes, and fellow England squad member Alex Hales who was also present, missing the rest of the ODI series. Stokes was also initially named in the 2017-2018 Ashes squad but was subsequently withdrawn with an investigation ongoing.
Looking in from the outside, many would have assumed that Stokes' chances of featuring in the Ashes tour were all but over, however, it would appear the ECB have offered him a glimmer of hope.
The ECB's chief executive Tom Harrison has opened the door to a possible late arrival in Australia with his latest comments seemingly reflecting the softening stance on the ban.
Harrison has insisted the ECB's desire is to help the two England stars reintegrate back into the setup.
"We have to get that balance between censure and support absolutely right," he said, per The Sun. "Cricket's response to this will show the value of the game in the best light.
"We will quickly recover to where the game is seen as doing its best to rehabilitate reputations on the field, and try to get Ben and Alex [Hales] back to where fans are really behind them."
The ECB's own investigation will begin once the police conclude their enquiry - providing no charges are brought against the Durham all-rounder, in what has been an extremely difficult period for all of those involved.
Harrison's comments will be music to the ears of Stokes and Hales, however, as a remarkable return to the Ashes fold would definitely be a boost to the squad.
Jake Ball has become the latest casualty England are concerned about after suffering an ankle problem on Thursday, meanwhile Steven Finn has had to return home following his forced withdrawal from the tour.
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