If England were to pick any country to tour next, in the wake of the Ben Stokes video nasty, the answer would be ABA - Anywhere But Australia.

One thing can be guaranteed if the England and Wales Cricket Board send Stokes off to Australia on the Ashes expedition: Stokes baiting will be the biggest off-field attraction for the duration of the trip. And now add in the unpleasant aspects of social media. It would be a disaster, in PR and real terms, waiting to happen.

Yesterday it emerged Stokes may have been moved into violent action defending two gay men who were being targeted by thugs outside a Bristol bar.

Piers Morgan, former tabloid editor and media figure in Britain, has sprung to Stokes' defence.


Whatever way you slice it, Stokes was so far out of order it's not worth debating. Watch the video if you can and you'll see he had at least two opportunities to pull out and walk away. Instead, he staggered on, flattening one man which could have had fatal consequences.

Stokes, Christchurch-born son of former Kiwis league prop Gerard Stokes, is a gifted allrounder with an immense future. It's not unreason-able to suggest he holds a big part of England's Ashes hopes in his hands.

But here's the rub: England should remove their vice-captain from the tour. He and teammate Alex Hales have already been suspended indefinitely, albeit on full pay so it may not become an issue.

Not only would that take away a target for Australia's boo brigade, it would also send a message.

As it stands, there is a police inquiry. If that had been a Neville Nobody, jail might be beckoning. It might still for a man whose short fuse has long been known about.

If England pack Stokes off to Australia, calling it an unfortunate slipup on his part, what kind of message does that send?

Unfortunately at times like this, sports organisations tend to look the other way. Sporting expediency kicks in.

No Stokes means a big drawcard is gone and England's Ashes hopes would have taken a correspondingly substantial blow.

Set aside any talk of provocation. It may transpire there was some. But that's no excuse for Stokes' brawling behaviour.

Another video leaked yesterday showing Stokes mocking a severely disabled teenage boy hardly helps his image either.

Looking for a reason for his violence? Look no further than the Mailonline website, that pillar of solid, reliable, factual reporting, where a writer has suggested his ancestry could be part of his behavioural issues.

"Stokes is actually a New Zealander by ancestry and birth. His red hair and freckles come from his father's side of the family, but he also has Maori blood from his mother's distant relatives - a connection of which he is proud enough to mark with a tattoo on his arm."

It's called New Zealand-baiting and best ignored.

There is fresh talk of curfews on England's players, despite the view from the bosses that players should be treated as grown ups. Clearly not all of them can be trusted.

But if a proper message isn't sent cricket will let itself down.

Stokes has form for misbehaviour but worryingly England's coach Trevor Bayliss has said he's happy for Stokes to remain his vice-captain to Joe Root.

The police will have a say in all this but action from them may not happen before England head for Australia in late October.

Cricket authorities should grasp the nettle and make their own hit on a player whose thuggish behaviour has cast him in a shameful light.