‘I just want my friend to be okay’ – Joe Root throws support behind Ben Stokes as England all-rounder takes break from cricket


Ben Stokes has the ‘full support’ of England’s squad, says Joe Root (Picture: Getty)

England Test captain Joe Root says he hopes Ben Stokes ‘can get himself back to being Ben Stokes again’ and ‘put himself first’ after the all-rounder announced he would be taking an indefinite break from cricket.

Looking to protect his mental health and rest his injured finger, Stokes, 30, pulled out of England’s upcoming five-match Test series versus India on Saturday and has made no mention of a possible return date.

Stokes – a star in all formats of the game and England’s hero in the 2019 World Cup final – has received countless messages of support from the cricketing fraternity in the days that have followed, with ECB chief Ashley Giles praising his ‘tremendous courage’ in ‘opening up about his feelings’.

And speaking ahead of Wednesday’s series opener at Trent Bridge, Root underlined that his team-mate and friend had the full backing of England’s entire squad and coaching staff.

Stokes broke a finger while competing in the Indian Premier League back in April (Picture: Getty)

‘I just want my friend to be okay. He’s one of my closest friends in the game,’ the England skipper told BBC Sport.

‘I hope he can get himself back to being Ben Stokes again – that’s all we all want.

‘As long as I’ve known Ben, he puts everyone else first, and now is an opportunity to put himself first.

‘He has my full support and he has the whole team’s full support on that. It’s important he takes as long as he needs.

‘This is an opportunity to be with his family and give himself the opportunity to feel like the best version of Ben Stokes.

‘We know from a cricketing point of view how good that is, and from a personal point of view he’s one of the greatest blokes I’ve ever played cricket with.’

Root’s England take on India in the first match of their five-Test series against India on Wednesday (Picture: Getty)

Despite the loss of Stokes, Root is confident England can go on and have a successful series against India, currently ranked the number two Test team in the world.

‘It doesn’t mean we can’t go on and have a very good start to this series,’ he added.

‘There’s been many occasions when we’ve managed to find ways of winning without Ben.

‘I’m always confident when we’re playing at home. We’ve got some wonderfully talented cricketers.’

England face India and Australia before the turn of the year (Picture: Getty)

It’s been widely reported that some England players have threatened to withdraw from the Ashes should their families not be allowed to make the trip to Australia this winter.

But Root is adamant that no squad members had yet made a decision to pull out in the lead-up to the series.

‘Every single player as a kid, they want to go Australia; they want to win the Ashes; they want to lift the urn out there.

‘We’re all desperate to go and do that – it’s just to what cost, and what environment we’re going to be living in off the back of 18 months of being in these bubbled environments.

‘We need to work closely with the ECB so they can be very aware of where we’re at, and they can have good honest conversations with Cricket Australia.

‘Once we know where we stand, what it’s going to look like, then we’ll make a decision. We’ll have to see how things unfold over the coming weeks.’


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