So former New Zealand wicketkeeper Robbie Hart – now a lawyer – thinks Canterbury Cricket made a "great decision" signing suspended England cricket all-rounder Ben Stokes.

It's a great decision if they want a reputation as a patsy, a pushover and maybe even a bit of a pimp.

Stokes is turning out for Canterbury against Otago in the 50-over Ford Trophy match tomorrow even though he was suspended by England for Ashes duty after being arrested (and released) on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm after a brawl in Bristol in September – in which another man allegedly suffered a fractured eye socket.

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Hart was reported as saying: "I think the [Canterbury Cricket] board made a great decision. New Zealand cricket is the better for having a guy like that playing in our domestic competition…A big difference is that it happened over in England. It's been dealt with over there."

Ah, well, you see, Robbie – no, it hasn't been dealt with. Not yet. That's kind of the point. But let's assume whoever wrote that mis-heard or got the tense wrong. Maybe Robbie said: "It's being dealt with over there."

UK prosecutors have yet to decide whether to charge Stokes, England's vice-captain. You see the importance of tense.

Ben Stokes trains with Canterbury. Photo / AP.
Ben Stokes trains with Canterbury. Photo / AP.

At this stage it's possible to introduce the highly irrelevant fact that Hart is best known, apart from some heroic batting for New Zealand, for dropping Pakistani batsman Inzamam ul-Haq when he was on 32 in 2002. Inzy went on to make 329, making the miss one of the most expensive in test cricket history.

This "great decision" looks like another bad spill to me. These are great decisions: universal suffrage, the right to have gay marriage, freedom of speech, the removal of apartheid, Donald Trump. The last one was just to see if you were paying attention…

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How exactly does Stokes playing for Canterbury benefit New Zealand cricket? Let me smoothly glove that one for you, Robbie. Not at all.

Hart was quoted in the same Stuff article as saying: "It will be a great experience for them and [the Canterbury players] are only ever going to learn stuff off him. He plays the game hard and that's good for the game."


Stokes is New Zealand-born but has never shown any interest in playing for this country. Bet the homegrown player missing selection to fit Stokes into the side won't learn much.

Watching good cricketers – and even playing alongside them – doesn't do a thing for those doing the watching. I used to watch the hell out of Martin Crowe and even played with him a couple of times in funsy matches.

Didn't matter. He was a genius; I was still crap. There was no transfer of skill, although Marty did pass on some good advice on red wines.

Stokes is here for two reasons: First, to see his parents over Christmas. Second, to get into some sort of cricketing trim should the whole ugly business in Bristol be sorted out in time to join his England teammates in the Ashes.

In which case, he'll be gone faster than a toupee in a typhoon.

There's no doubt the presumption of innocence must prevail but you then wonder why England cricket doesn't feel the same way.

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There is also the unconfirmed report from controversial British media mouth Piers Morgan that Stokes was actually coming to the aid of two gay men in Bristol. But having Morgan in your corner, a man whose name is an almost perfect anagram of 'sperm organ', is a dubious asset.

So now let's look at Canterbury Cricket. Patsy? Well, they are giving a man who will be part of England's touring team next year valuable time in New Zealand conditions.

Pushover? All Stokes had to do was raise an eyebrow and Canterbury went into a colonial swoon.

Pimp? If you believe that old nonsense that all publicity is good publicity, it looks like Canterbury are simply banking on the controversy/celebrity element to boost their stocks and maybe receipts.

Ben Stokes mingles with his new Canterbury teammates. Photo / AP.
Ben Stokes mingles with his new Canterbury teammates. Photo / AP.

You wonder what young Canterbury batsman Ken McClure thinks of it all. He's the bloke to be sentenced on January 19 after admitting a charge of injuring with reckless disregard after an incident during a cricket trip.

Once McClure plead guilty, Canterbury Cricket stood him down; he won't play again until court action has been completed.

They have made great play that Stokes' case is not similar; there is no admission of guilt. They have also said he would have been eligible to play county cricket if that was in action now.

These are all lawyerly weasel words which seem designed to justify more selfish intent than an impassioned defence of the presumption of innocence.

Jez Curwin, the CEO of Canterbury Cricket, quoted after the McClure business: "We expect a certain level of behaviour on and off the pitch from everyone that represents us."

A great decision? No, a tawdry and wholly unnecessary one.