The ECB have confirmed that premier all-rounder Ben Stokes has decided to take an indefinite break from cricket for mental health reasons, and thereby will miss the five-Test series against India starting next week. Somerset’s Craig Overton has been added to the squad as Stokes’ replacement.
In a development that could prove to be series-defining, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) have confirmed that Ben Stokes has withdrawn from the Test squad to face India for mental health reasons and to rest his injured left index finger. Stokes, who returned to international cricket earlier this month in the ODI series against Pakistan, where he skippered the country amidst an unprecedented crisis, was expected to be a key member of the England side in the five-Test series, after having proven his fitness both in international cricket and in The Hundred. However, five days ahead of the first Test, the ECB have confirmed that the 30-year-old has decided to take an indefinite break from all cricket, and thereby will not be featuring in the series.
“Stokes has withdrawn from England's Test squad ahead of the LV= Insurance Test series against India starting next week to prioritise his mental wellbeing and to rest his left index finger, which has not fully healed since his return to competitive cricket earlier this month. The ECB fully supports Ben's decision, and we will continue to help him during this period away from the game,” the ECB said in a statement.
This week, there have been loud and honest conversations about the mental well-being of athletes across the globe, following renowned American gymnast Simone Biles taking the bold decision to withdraw mid-way through the Olympics in order to preserve her mental health. Biles’ decision was well received by the fans, and the American received support from fellow elite athletes, many of whom spoke publicly about the need for sportspersons to prioritize their mental well-being.
The ECB have claimed in the past that they take pride in putting cricketers’ well-being above everything else, and thus, following Stokes’ decision, the board’s Managing Director of England Men's Cricket, Ashley Giles, assured that the England Test vice-captain has the ECB’s full support, and will be given ‘as long as he needs’ to get back to the game.
"Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and wellbeing. Our primary focus has always been and will continue to be the mental health and welfare of all of our people. The demands on our athletes to prepare and play elite sport are relentless in a typical environment, but the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded this,” Giles said.
"Spending significant amounts of time away from family, with minimal freedoms, is extremely challenging. The cumulative effect of operating almost continuously in these environments over the last 16 months has had a major impact on everyone's wellbeing."
"Ben will be given as long as he needs, and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future."
Stokes has been replaced by Somerset seamer Craig Overton, who was a part of the Three Lions’ squad in England’s 0-1 defeat against the Kiwis in June.