LOOKING at the recent court case involving Ben Stokes – who has now rejoined the England squad after being cleared of affray – I do think it is now time for all of our cricketers to have midnight curfews.
I remember when I was at Yorkshire coming up in the late Eighties and early Nineties. County cricket definitely had a drink problem then. We used to get cans of beer served at the table when we had dinner as we were sponsored by a beer company.
During game time and in a series 48 hours before games, midnight has always got to be a curfew time for me.Darren Gough
When Steve Oldham came in – a person who shaped my career and without him I would not have been the cricketer I was – he showed me a bit of discipline because I lacked it then.
If social media had been around in those days, I do not think I would have lasted too long in the professional game.
But I remember we used to have a curfew and it was for the better of me. It did not mean you could not have a drink, but it was a case of ‘welcome to the real world.’ If you get up for a real job, you go to bed at a decent hour.
There is nothing wrong with having a drink in moderation. But you go to bed at a decent time and it is the same for cricketers and sportsmen.
In the middle of a series last summer, Stokes was out until 2.35 in the morning and that was not acceptable. I would expect anyone to be punished for doing that in a series.
In our day, we got away with that sort of thing as well. But if I had come in at 2.35am, I would have expected to be punished.
A sensible curfew time during matches and in a series of midnight is the way forward.
It gives you time after a day’s play to have dinner, speak to your family and friends and it takes out the grey areas.
During game time and in a series 48 hours before games, midnight has always got to be a curfew time for me.
People also talk about sportsmen not drinking full-stop when they go away for long winters, but I do feel as a cricketer, it is different.
When cricketers go away for periods of time on tour and are living in hotels away from their families, you can throw in a lot of personal stuff.
You have kids at home or whatever and it is hard work. You do need your down-time and there have to be set periods of time where you are allowed to break that curfew when there are no matches. But that has got to be with the management’s permission.
Especially these days. You see social media now and if you are out in the middle of the night, you might think you are 100 per cent okay, but others might not be. It creates issues.
After the Stokes incident, remember we still had problems in Australia and if we’d had that midnight curfew straightaway, none of that would have happened.
Looking at the whole Stokes issue, I want to praise his agent, Neil Fairbrother. He sat with him and his family and supported him for 11 months, which is fantastic. Agents get a bad name in professional sport and I have texted Neil to gave him a pat on the back.
There are not many like him and hopefully he can now guide Ben for the rest of his career.
I met Ben several times. You can only go on when you meet people, but every time I have met him, he is a wonderful guy who is full of fun, energy and passion for the game and wants to do well and play cricket.
As a cricket fan, I am pleased he is back. He loves the game. I have played many times for England and met lots of players who did not actually enjoy playing for England. Ben does.
We have all made mistakes in life and I believe in giving people a second chance. No matter what walk of life they come from; I have always been the same.
Ben needs to get on with rebuilding his reputation and breaking records for England for the next five, six or seven years because that is what we all want to see. We want to Ben making headlines for playing cricket and not going out.
The England and Wales Cricket Board’s cricket discipline commission are to reconvene to discuss possible further sanctions for Stokes and I don’t understand why the meeting cannot be now – get it out of the way!
If they do something, do it now as we need Ben to go away this winter as we have a terrible record overseas. Let us get it sorted before the end of the summer. If there is going to be any punishment, so be it. It would then get Ben’s mind right on playing in Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
If this carries on, this India series will be over and what happens then? We are just creating a big issue for ourselves.
It has been 11 months since the incident and surely they have some idea of what they want to do. Regarding the punishment, I would be surprised if it was nothing. But I do not think it will be anything drastic.