Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Picture this: Nathan Lyon catches the ball to run out Jack Leach at Headingley, Australia win the Third Test and retain the Ashes (about a week before they actually retained them). Ben Stokes is stuck up the other end, having failed in his attempts to complete the greatest run chase in Test history. The heroics of the World Cup Final just 5 weeks before – along with this effort – are seemingly in vain.
Except of course this did not happen. Lyon dropped the ball and Leach survived. The next over, Stokes cut the ball away for 4 and what seemed impossible just a few days earlier when England were bowled out for 67 in their first innings became a reality. Stokes stood, arms aloft, roaring his delight as his bespectacled partner ran to join in the celebrations. The nation rejoiced as it had done in the World Cup Final, as it had done when Eric Dier had scored the winning penalty in the World Cup Last 16 shootout against Colombia. Lyon crumpled to the ground in despair as that iconic video of the winning runs, Stokes’ Celebration and the Headingley Crowd’s elation.
Fast forward two weeks. England have, despite Stokes’s heroics, failed to win the Ashes at home for the first time since 2001. They did however rescue some pride in avoiding defeat in the series, with Stokes hitting a vital 67 in the second innings to ensure that England had a lead that would be difficult for Australia to chase down. As Captain Joe Root took the final catch off the bowling of Jack Leach, the England team came together to celebrate. Not a series victory, but their progression and stability as a team, acutely personified by the figure of Stokes.
He was named as England’s Man of the Series, just two years after there were whispers that his career was over after his arrest for assault outside a nightclub in Bristol in September 2017. Stokes, who was cleared of Affray last year, was still disappointed at the Ashes series result despite his heroics.
“I’ll look back on winning at Headingley in a few years’ time with fond memories probably, but I’d swap it for winning the Ashes still.”-Ben Stokes speaking to BBC Test Match Special after the final Ashes Test at the Oval
However, despite Stokes’ career defining summer that has since seen him emerge as a hero to cricket fans across the country, the Tabloid press have once again bared their teeth in looking to interfere and expose the private life of one of Britain’s most loved sportsmen. On Monday, Stokes tweeted of his shock and horror that the Sun newspaper had splashed out on their front page, a headline and story revolving a family tragedy before Stokes was even born. Such efforts to do show shames Journalism and yet continues the newspaper’s reputation for it’s shocking and ruthless attempts to shame those who are successful in their own right just to sell newspapers. The paper also sent a reporter to question Stokes’s parents at their home in New Zealand, with no thought to the sensitivity of this topic, only to sensationalise what has been a tragedy for the Stokes family.
Stokes’s Statement in full:
— Ben Stokes (@benstokes38) September 17, 2019
Stokes’ statement was backed up by the ECB, with Chief Executive Tom Harrison notably ‘disgusted and appalled’ by the Sun’s actions. Stokes’s teammate and fellow fast-bowler Joffra Archer was asked his thoughts on the matter on an appearance on Good Morning Britain. Archer responded by saying that he ‘couldn’t quite understand the purpose’ of the publication of such a story, especially considering the England team’s success on the field of play this summer.
“We are saddened that an intrusion of this magnitude was deemed necessary in order to sell newspapers or secure clicks.
“Ben’s exploits this summer have cemented his place in cricket’s history – we are sure the whole sport, and the country, stands behind him in support.”
The Sun newspaper has never been far from controversy in it’s reporting of events in the past, or indeed in its relationship with Sporting institutions in this country. The most notable of these is the complete boycott of the paper in Liverpool after the paper printed false headlines surrounding the Hillsborough Disaster, accusing the survivors of looting the bodies of those who died, as well as attacking the police attempting to help them. An apology was eventually made in 2012, after an inquest exonerated Liverpool fans of any wrong doing. In 2017, former Editor Kelvin Mackenzie (who himself was responsible for the false headlines about Hillsborough), compared then Everton Midfielder Ross Barkley to ‘a Gorilla in a Zoo’, an article rightly deemed as racist due to Barkley’s Nigerian descent and subsequently saw the termination of Mackenzie’s contract.
As of 2019, the Sun Newspaper has been boycotted almost entirely in the Liverpool due to it’s attacks on the people of the City and its football team. The ECB, in the wake of the Ben Stokes ‘story’ have been encouraged to do the same, which would show great strength and resolve, and would ensure that Stokes has the total support of those above him. The Sun Newspaper has for too long sought to shame, and demean our love of Sport by wrongly exposing those entitled to their own private lives or by printing dangerous lies sought to shame those who do not deserve it. A total boycott by all Sporting organisations in Britain would certainly be the very least that it deserves.