England coach Trevor Bayliss fears the International Cricket Council may end up constraining his sport’s most charismatic stars by taking too firm a hand with “by-play” on the pitch.
Ben Stokes is England’s case in point, after a reprimand from the world governing body for his verbal spat with Virat Kohli in the third Test at Mohali.
The India captain was spared any disciplinary process but Stokes received a ticking-off for the “inappropriate comments” he made in response to a ‘send-off’ from Kohli after his first-innings dismissal last weekend.
The reprimand was accompanied by a demerit point under the ICC’s new code of conduct system - taking Stokes’ tally to two after a similar offence in England’s defeat to Bangladesh in Dhaka in October.
The all-rounder has therefore put himself in line for a mandatory ban, for one Test or two one-day internationals, should he double his demerit points at any point over the next two years.
Asked if Stokes will therefore be well advised to tone down the verbals, however, Bayliss hinted he believes it is administrators rather than players who perhaps ought to have a rethink.
“I think he’s improving!” he said.
“I think at times ICC are almost looking for things. I agree that things have been out of hand in the past, and we don’t want it to go overboard.
“But sometimes a little bit of by-play between a couple of guys on either side - who are passionate about their cricket and their team - I think it’s good for the game.”
Stokes is a crowd-pleaser, and often a match-winner, and Bayliss does not want him to calm down too much.
“We’ve just got to be careful ... we (don’t) completely cut that out,” he added.
“I think having some personalities in the game is fantastic to watch. I think it’s part of the game.
“But he’s got to learn to deal with it in a different way ... or get away with it a bit better!
“I think he’s come a long way in the last 12 months or so ... and I’m sure he’ll keep improving in that area.”
Stokes’ energy is a vital asset to England.
“Some of us are in awe of what he does,” said Bayliss.
“He just doesn’t stop. He’s like a wind-up clock. You get him off at the break, wind him up and send him back out.”
England are 2-0 down with two to play after their back-to-back defeats in the second and third matches. But Stokes already has a century, a half-century and a five-wicket haul on this tour.
“I don’t know who was the last overseas player to score a hundred and take a five-for in a Test series over here - especially a pace bowler,” added Bayliss.
“That wouldn’t have been done too many times - that’s a feather in his cap.”
Stokes is one of few players to stay in Mumbai, with Bayliss and the management staff, while team-mates take a short break in Dubai before returning in time for the fourth Test.
Alastair Cook is among those in the Middle East, at a time when speculation over how long he will remain captain is again under discussion.
Cook has led his country in a national-record 57 Tests, and Bayliss for one does not appear to sense he is nearing the end yet despite two relative failures with the bat in Mohali, where he nonetheless entered the all-time top 10 of the world’s most prolific batsmen.
“He’s still the same Cookie in the changing room,” said the Australian.
“These are just difficult conditions to play in.
“Even the best of the players, when it’s foreign conditions, have a bit of a rough trot.
“He made a hundred in the first Test ... so I’m not concerned about it. He’s been through it before and has done well in India before.
“I think the break will do him the world of good as well.”
The same goes for the rest of the squad, according to Bayliss, before they return to try to somehow battle back for an unlikely drawn series.
“It will be good (for them) to get away and have a complete break, mentally and physically,” he said.
“We’ve been on the sub-continent for a long time ... it can be difficult at times, even away from the game, if you’re not used to it.
“So this is an opportunity to get away for three or four days, refresh and - we hope - come back raring to go.”
England’s injured opener Haseeb Hameed is planning to return to India to watch his team-mates in the final two Tests, alongside his family, after flying home to have a plate inserted in his badly-broken left hand.