Canterbury's contentious decision to sign Ben Stokes for the Ford Trophy has received an unexpected endorsement – from one of the players he could be lining up against over the weekend.
It was announced on Thursday that the troubled Kiwi-born English allrounder would be allowed to play in New Zealand's domestic one-day competition just over 24 hours after arriving in the country amid speculation over his involvement in the Ashes in Australia.
Stokes is under investigation by UK police after allegedly assaulting a man in a late night brawl outside a Bristol nightclub in September. While banned by the England Cricket Board (ECB) from playing internationally, pending the outcome of the police investigation, the fiery 26-year-old is permitted to play domestically.
He is available for Canterbury's opening match against Otago at Rangiora on Sunday in what is widely believed to be valuable match practice before an expected call-up to the struggling English test squad.
Otago allrounder Mark Craig insists, however, that Canterbury made the right call.
"Hats off to Canterbury, they've obviously looked at an opportunity to boost some ticket sales and he's one guy that will definitely do that.
"We've all made mistakes before and he'd [Stokes] no doubt want to try and put it all behind him and let his cricket do the talking," Craig told Radio Sport's Reuben Mama.
"I think it's exciting he's playing and it's up to Canterbury to take the step that they did to try and get him to play. I think for our boys it's exciting to know you're playing against arguably the best allrounder in the game."
Craig did, however, warn Stokes could expect some stick in his country of birth.
"No doubt wherever he goes he's going to get a bit of jip. But our boys will just try and let the cricket do the talking as opposed to getting into a verbal joust with him.
"He could backlash and really hurt you."
Craig faced Stokes twice with the Black Caps in the test series in England in 2015, dismissing him in both innings of the first test at Lord's.
"I think he got 90 odd [92 and 101] and he whacked us all over the place, to be fair," Craig said.
"He's a destructive, powerful hitter and obviously bowls pretty heavy with good change-ups. He can win you games with the bat, the ball and in the field … but the boys will be doing their best to keep him quiet [on Sunday]."
Otago's been in ordinary form of late – losing four of their five Plunket Shield matches, but Craig believes the change of format could represent a change in fortune.
"We've just come off the back of five four-day games and obviously it hasn't gone all our way," he said.
"But you can definitely feel that extra bit of edge at training and all the excitement and the intensity levels going up. The boys have been training well. We're looking forward to getting the new format underway and starting off with a win on Sunday."