London: England all-rounder Ben Stokes has taken an indefinite break from the game to "prioritise his mental wellbeing" and withdrawn from the home Test series against India beginning August 4.
In a statement, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has also said that Stokes has taken the break to also rest his left index finger, "which has not fully healed since his return to competitive cricket earlier this month".
"Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and wellbeing."
We're all with you, Stokesy pic.twitter.com/6HmEzmCxvw
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) July 30, 2021
Mental health of cricketers in COVID times has become a topic of constant discussion with the players having to play in bio-bubbles for months.
Managing Director of England men's cricket, Ashley Giles, said the ECB supports Stokes' decision. "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," said Giles, also a former England spinner.
Being in a protected environment for months has taken a toll on the players, he said. "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."
"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 Stokes withdrawing from the test series is big news. Virtually impossible to replace. So many elite sportspeople getting affected.
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) July 30, 2021
Giles added that Stokes will be given all the time he needs to get back to his best shape both physically and mentally.
"Ben will be given as long as he needs, and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future," he said.
Craig Overton has replaced Stokes in the England squad for the India series.