Root on Stokes absence: I just want my friend to be okay

By Sports Desk August 02, 2021

England captain Joe Root is "desperate" for friend and team-mate Ben Stokes "to be okay" after it was announced the all-rounder was taking an indefinite break from cricket.

Following in the footsteps of Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles, Stokes has become the latest elite athlete to step away from sport to prioritise his mental wellbeing.

Stokes had been set to face India in a five-Test series but will instead rest, also giving his injured finger time to heal.

On Monday, skipper Root offered his support to the 30-year-old, whose father died last December following a battle with cancer.

"I had a conversation with Ben and that's when I found out, but that call will stay between the two of us," Root said.

"For me, it was hard to see a friend like that. More than anything, I just want him to be okay

"What was said stays between us two and I think, throughout this, it's important that people respect his privacy and give him the best chance to deal with this in his own way.

"I'm just desperate for him to be okay and I'll be there for him as much as I can be in whatever way he wants."

Having suffered a broken left index finger while playing in the Indian Premier League in April, Stokes was back in action for Durham in June and unexpectedly returned to the international arena last month.

The England vice-captain led a short-handed team to an ODI series whitewash of Pakistan after a coronavirus outbreak saw the original squad stood down.

Now, the England and Wales Cricket Board has promised Stokes "as long as he needs".

Root added: ""From my point of view, I just want my friend to be okay.

"I think that anyone who knows Ben knows that he always puts other people in front of himself and first. And I think now is an opportunity for him to put himself first, to take time to look after himself and to get himself to a good place again.

"Hopefully that can be sooner rather than later and I think cricket has to be a secondary thought down the line and he should take as much time as he needs.

"He's got my full support on that and he can be sure he has the ECB's full support on that and the team's."

The India series begins on Wednesday with the first Test at Trent Bridge.

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