Ben Stokes and Alex Hales retain England central contracts
What's the story?
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have released the list of centrally contracted players for the 2017/18 season. Even though they are currently under investigation for a drunken brawl, both Ben Stokes and Alex Hales have managed to retain their respective national contracts. While the pace bowling all-rounder has been included in the list of players contracted for both Tests and limited-overs cricket, the opening batsman has held on to his position in the white-ball formats.
However, Steven Finn could not find a place in the Test contracts despite being included in the Ashes squad as a prospective replacement for Stokes. Mark Wood lost his contract for the game's traditional format following an injury-plagued season. Instead, he was demoted to the category for ODIs and T20Is.
On the other hand, Jake Ball earned his maiden central contract with England. The seamer, who played in the Champions Trophy, has been inducted into the list of limited-overs players. Having made his Test debut in the home series against South Africa, Toby Roland-Jones was accorded an incremental contract.
Following the emergence of incriminating video footage, Stokes and Hales were suspended by ECB until further notice for their involvement in a drunken brawl. Subsequently, the England board announced that the Durham all-rounder will not travel with the rest of the Ashes squad 'at this stage'. As a result, Finn was added to the touring contingent.
The heart of the matter
Only 8 cricketers have found a place in the contracts for Tests. But the list pertaining to ODIs/T20Is included as many as 14 names.
Full list of players contracted by ECB
Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes
Moeen Ali, Jake Ball, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan, Liam Plunkett, Joe Root, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood
Avon and Somerset Police are currently investigating the drunken episode. Depending on the result of their inquiry, the ECB will decide on whether Stokes can play any part in the upcoming trip to Australia. The Ashes series is set to begin on November 23 at the Gabba.
The inclusion of both Stokes and Hales in the list of centrally contracted players can be interpreted as a bold move by the ECB to back two of their star players. The left-hander, in particular, can consider himself extremely lucky to have retained his contract in all formats in spite of his recent shenanigans.