‘I just want my friend to be okay’: Joe Root talks about Ben Stokes’ decision to retire from cricket indefinitely as England captain prepares for India Test series without star all-rounder
- Joe Root Has Said He Just Wants Ben Stokes To Put Himself First And That It Will Be Alright
- England’s all-rounder has been announced to take an indefinite break from cricket
- Root admitted it was hard watching his friend struggle with his mental health
- England will face India in a five-match test series starting this week at Trent Bridge
Joe Root has a simple wish as he approaches the first of 10 Tests against India and Australia that will largely decide whether he will be remembered as a success or a failure as England captain.
“I just want my friend to be okay,” he said. “It’s hard to see him like this.”
The friend is, of course, Ben Stokes, who is now taking an indefinite break from cricket, and Root’s thoughts were with him, although his task, which starts at Trent Bridge on Wednesday, will be considerably more difficult due to the absence of the ‘irreplaceable’ all- rounder.
Joe Root admitted it was hard to watch his friend Ben Stokes suffer from his mental health
England’s all-rounder has been announced to retire from cricket indefinitely
“Ben always puts other people before himself, but now it’s time to put himself first, take the time to take care of himself, and get back in a good place,” Root said.
“Cricket should be secondary, a long way off, and it should last as long as it needs. He has been assured that he will have the full support of the ECB and the entire team. I spoke to him and what was said remains between us, but we all stand behind him.”
It remains a huge shock that the seemingly indestructible Stokes had to pull out of this selective five-Test series against India to protect his mental well-being and a salutary warning to the game that something will have to be given if more players don’t follow suit.
“That’s why it’s important that we keep talking,” Root said. “Especially now that we’re in these safe, bubble environments.
Root now enters five-match India series without ‘the heartbeat’ from the English side
“We have tried to take care of the players with rest and rotation and while that has presented challenges, it has given them an opportunity to try and stay in good headroom.”
The controversial rest and rotation policies that have forced Root to mount weakened Test sides over the past year and add to the pressure to beat India would now have led to full strength.
But it’s not just Stokes missing this week, but also two injured key bowlers in Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes and Root has a lot to think about as he looks for a combination to beat an India squad that has been acclimating here since their final defeat of the World Test Championship against New Zealand.
“There’s no one like Ben Stokes in world cricket,” Root said. “He’s been incredible for a long time, the heartbeat of this side, but we’ve found ways to win without him in the past and this is another chance to try that.”
Jofra Archer will also be missing while recovering from elbow surgery
How Root could do with a win at Trent Bridge after defeat in India last winter was followed by a rare home game against New Zealand. If England falls behind now, we could have a long six months on this series and, if it does happen, the Ashes.
It was that miserable defeat in Edgbaston against the Kiwis earlier this summer that led to… Sportsmails Nasser Hussain takes a closer look at England’s batsmen with their modern failed techniques.
“It was actually nice to see someone so passionate about English cricket,” Root said. “I didn’t agree with everything Nasser said, and that’s fine, but you could see how much he wanted England to be successful. Our guys are desperate to get out now and put big runs on the board. We have to execute our game plan better than the opposition.’
Sportsmail’s Nasser Hussain was critical of the English batsmen’s techniques this summer
Last but not least, the captain who made the unusual decision to take on all his media duties two days after the game, so that today he can fully concentrate on preparing for one of the most important games of his leadership.
Root knows that the next six months will likely define him as captain. “It could be,” he said. “But I can’t think about that, because I have to focus on the here and now. We need to get off to a good start with this series and that’s what I can focus on now.”
That and his absent and much missed friend Stokes.
India opener Mayank Agarwal has been ruled out of the first test with a concussion after being hit on the helmet while netting at Trent Bridge. He is in a stable condition.
Mayank Agarwal does not appear in the first test after getting caught in the nets on the helmet