BEN STOKES realises how lucky he is to play for England after a year that saw his career interrupted by off-field drama.
It is 13 months since the all-rounder was arrested after a late night incident in Bristol and two months since he was found not guilty of affray.
I have always viewed my career playing for England as being lucky to be in this situation and you appreciate that a bit more I guessEngland’s Ben Stokes
In that time he missed the entirety of last winter’s Ashes tour, lost the vice-captaincy and was again absent for this summer’s Lord’s Test against India due to court commitments.
The unhappy chapter is not yet fully closed, with he and team-mate Alex Hales due to face a cricket discipline commission in December, charged with bringing the game into disrepute.
Stokes is unable to talk about the hearing and unwilling to dwell on the recent past, but makes no secret of how much he values being back in the team and focusing on cricket.
“I have always viewed my career playing for England as being lucky to be in this situation and you appreciate that a bit more I guess,” he said.
“When you’re in the public eye and you’re a name I guess you are a role model. I’ve always known that and always understood it and that hasn’t changed.
“Looking at things that went on is not the way I like to think. It’s all about looking to the future. Everything I do from here onwards is what people will hopefully remember. That’s what I’m trying to do.
“I am constantly being asked this question, but with the World Cup and the Ashes next year it’s tough to think about the past when you have such an exciting thing coming up.”
Faced with the suggestion that his career lay in the balance as he awaited the verdict at Bristol Crown Court, he said: “It’s over and done with now so I don’t like to think about it.”
Support for Stokes within the dressing room has been resounding. His team-mates stayed in regular contact during his time away, welcomed him back with open arms when he returned and have spoken repeatedly about influential status in the group.
That sense of unity has not gone unnoticed.
“People say you’ve got your work colleagues and your friends, but there’s a lot of people in this group, outside of cricket, you’d say are your friends,” he said.
“You find out who they are in tough situations and members of this group have been unbelievable. I think if anyone is going through anything in the future I think it’d be exactly the same,” added Stokes, who is likely to be involved today in a one-off Twenty20 game in Colombo against Sri Lanka.
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