London - Ben Stokes's long-awaited return to England duty
could take place in his native New Zealand after the all-rounder was included
on Thursday in a 15-man squad for a one-day international series against the
Black Caps "subject to any court obligations".
Stokes has not played international cricket since being
suspended by the England and Wales Board (ECB) following his involvement in an
incident outside a Bristol nightclub in September that reportedly left a man
with a fractured eye socket.
As a result, the Durham all-rounder missed the whole of
England's 4-0 Ashes series defeat in Australia.
But last month saw Stokes included in England's squad for
the upcoming triangular Twenty20 series that is being co-hosted by Australia
and New Zealand.
However, English legal authorities then announced that
Stokes was due to appear in a magistrates court on February 13 after he was
charged with affray.
That date clashes with what England had hoped would be
Stokes's planned international comeback in a Twenty20 with New Zealand.
England remain optimistic that Stokes will be available for
all of a five-match ODI series that starts on February 25 but the complexities
of the legal system mean they cannot be certain.
As a result on Thursday saw the latest in a series of
qualified ECB statements regarding Stokes, with the board saying: "Ben
Stokes's involvement is subject to any court obligations in relation to the
incident in Bristol in September and his travel arrangements are yet to be
Stokes, who had been Test skipper Joe Root's vice-captain,
was selected but later deemed unavailable for both the Test and ODI series in
After he was charged, Stokes said he was "keen to have
an opportunity to clear my name" but would wait for his court date.
"Walking out on to the field with the England shirt on
is a privilege and a honour," said Stokes after the T20 squad was
announced. "I'm extremely delighted to be given this opportunity to do
Stokes, who came to England as a boy when his father, a
former New Zealand rugby league international, got a coaching job, sparked talk
of a possible international recall by playing for New Zealand domestic side
Canterbury for a month and last weekend, despite his looming court date, he
topped the Indian Premier League auction, selling for $1.96 million.
Stokes, signed by the Rajasthan Royals, will look to build
on an impressive debut season in the Twenty20 franchise tournament last year.
Under English law, affray, which refers to fighting in public,
can carry a maximum sentence of up to three years in prison.
The remainder of England's 15-man squad announced on
Thursday features the bulk of the players who defeated Australia 4-1 in a
recent five-match ODI series.
England squad for New Zealand ODIs:
Eoin Morgan (Middlesex, capt), Moeen Ali (Worcestershire), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Sam Billings (Kent, wkt), Jos Buttler (Lancashire, wkt), Tom Curran (Surrey), Alex Hales (Nottinghamshire), Liam Plunkett (Yorkshire), Adil Rashid (Yorkshire), Joe Root (Yorkshire), Jason Roy (Surrey), Ben Stokes (Durham), David Willey (Yorkshire), Chris Woakes (Warwickshire)
Feb 25: 1st ODI, Seddon Park, Hamilton
Feb 28: 2nd ODI, Bay Oval, Tauranga
Mar 03: 3rd ODI, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Mar 07: 4th ODI, University of Otago Oval, Dunedin
Mar 10: 5th ODI, Hagley Oval, Christchurch