Bob Willis believes Ben Stokes needs to learn to control his temper if he wants to keep performing for England.
Stokes has been at the centre of a sledging contest with Marlon Samuels over the second Test at the Grenada National Cricket Stadium which escalated when Samuels saluted Stokes as he made his way back to the pavilion after being dismissed for just eight on the third day.
“It was very amusing,” said Willis. “He saluted with cap on heart to the dear departed. But poor old Ben always takes the bait. Marlon, whether it’s verbally or with gestures, he’s got one over Ben at the moment.
“The best thing he can do is try and calm down a bit – we know what a fiery character Ben is, he’s had a run in with the ECB on one occasion and broken his hand on another when punching a locker.”
Willis was referring to when the Durham all-rounder – frustrated at being dismissed first ball in a Twenty20 international against West Indies – took his frustration out on the dressing room and missed the World Twenty20 as a result.
“We don’t want his aggression to depart, but he really needs to calm down because his temperament will get the better of him and he’ll gift the opposition his wicket or no-balls because of what’s buzzing around in his head.
“He just needs to calm down a little bit.”
A number of retired cricketers watching the game enjoyed the spectacle.
“That’s the greatest thing I’ve seen in Test cricket for a long time,” said former England captain Michael Vaughan. “I hope he doesn’t get any kind of fine. I thought that was brilliant banter.”
The humour was all too much for Graeme Swann, who laughed so uncontrollably that his tea squirted out of his nose. Swann suggested that England should line up a guard of honour for Samuels’ next dismissal.
West Indies bowling consultant Curtly Ambrose also saw the funny side of the gesture.
“There’s nothing wrong with a little bantering,” he said. “This is international cricket. As long as it doesn’t go over the top, I’m fine with it. I think it’s more friendly than anything else. He gave a salute. Is that a sign of respect? I don’t know but I’m hoping so.”