Andrew Strauss has said England’s cricketers are “not thugs” but need to be smarter if they are to improve the perception the public currently have of them. Strauss, the director of England cricket, insisted he would back his players and did not believe an alcohol ban was necessary, but suggested “a bit of naivety” was damaging their image at present.
He was talking as details of the incident involving Jonny Bairstow and Cameron Bancroft came to light. While Strauss said he accepted Bairstow’s explanation of events – repeating there was “no malice, no intent and no aggression in what he did” – he did call on the players to use their intelligence in the wake of the Ben Stokes affair and ensure they do not “put themselves in a position to be targeted”.
As a result, he addressed the entire squad in Brisbane on Monday night to make clear the rules regarding England’s attitude to alcohol and nights out. While that will not involve an absolute ban on drinking, it does seem likely the rules will be tightened and clarified – with the possibility of a midnight curfew being imposed for the rest of the tour.
But Strauss also made the point that the players had to be aware that, during an Ashes tour, there would be people looking to catch them out (on and off the pitch) and that, as the game sought to appeal to a new generation of supporters, they had to understand the changing nature of their responsibilities.
“Jonny told me he bumped Cameron Bancroft,” Strauss said. “It’s a greeting thing he does with his mates.
“Although I’m slightly surprised he would choose to do such a thing, I’m taking him at his word. As such, I don’t think it would appropriate for us to be launching disciplinary proceedings against him.
“There was no curfew on that night. He’d had a couple of drinks but I don’t think he was inebriated. Nothing untoward happened at any time. Our security were very comfortable with their behaviour and that is the reason it has been a complete non-event up until now.
No one knew about it because they didn’t do anything wrong and this situation has somewhat surprised all of us.
“But what might have been acceptable in the old days is no longer acceptable. We, as an England cricket team and I suppose cricket as a sport, need to move along with that. So no one is underplaying this.
“Something that was very innocent and kind of banter in a way, given the context and environment we’re operating in at the moment, can be construed as something completely different. And if that is not clear to the players right now, I don’t know when it will be.