Joe Clarke and Tom Kohler-Cadmore have been dropped from the England Lions squad that leaves for India on Saturday, after revelations about the pair’s off-field behaviour emerged in the course of the rape trial of their former Worcestershire team-mate, Alex Hepburn.
Hepburn faces the prospect of a retrial after the jury at Worcester Crown Court failed to reach a majority verdict on Friday, following a five-day case which featured an alleged WhatsApp “sexual conquest game” among its central planks of evidence.
In the course of the trial, it was alleged that Hepburn had raped an unnamed girl in April 2017, having entered Clarke’s bed while she was sleeping.
It was heard that Clarke had already had consensual sex with the girl on the night in question, and having been arrested in the aftermath of the alleged incident, he was released without charge.
Kohler-Cadmore, who was not present on the night in question, was not arrested. However, his first name appeared to be referenced during the prosecution’s examination of the WhatsApp messages, which included Hepburn’s posting of the “rules” of the game. It is understood that a number of other young Worcestershire players were also involved.
In his summing-up of the case Judge Jim Tindal said: “It was effectively a competition – and I regret to use this word but it seems to be accurate – to ‘collect’ as many sexual conquests as possible. It’s about ‘collecting’ new girls – to them, ‘freshies’, as they put it.”
Although the case may not yet be concluded, the revelations are a further embarrassment to the ECB, a body which has spent much of the past 15 months dealing with the fall-out of the Ben Stokes incident in Bristol in September 2017.
That case was finally closed in December when the Cricket Discipline Commission imposed fines and suspended sentences on both Stokes and his team-mate, Alex Hales – who received further punishment after inappropriate images were widely circulated on social media in the wake of the original incident.
Speaking at Lord’s last week in his unveiling as the ECB’s new director of England cricket, Ashley Giles warned that he would be taking a hard line on player discipline during his tenure, as England build towards a seismic summer featuring a home World Cup and an Ashes series, in which England’s squads can expect to be under intense scrutiny.
Giles’ first move has come quickly, with England Lions due to fly out to India at the weekend for a five-match 50-over series against India A, starting on January 23, before two unofficial Tests in February.
The two players had been named in both the 50-over and first-class squads, and are considered to be two of the most promising up-and-coming talents in the country.
Clarke, 22, left Worcestershire for Nottinghamshire at the end of the summer, while Kohler-Cadmore, 24, left for Yorkshire midway through 2017.
The incident also resulted in the departure of Worcestershire’s former head coach, Steve Rhodes, who was sacked in January last year, and relieved of his duties as England’s Under-19 coach, after it emerged that he had delayed reporting Hepburn’s arrest to the club.
It is the second high-profile suspension this week involving cricketers and their off-field actions, after the India duo, Hardik Pandya and KL Rahul, were sent home from the tour of Australia pending an enquiry into controversial comments they made during a chat show.