Joe Root on Ben Stokes missing England Tests vs India: ‘I just want my friend to be OK’

“Cricket has to be a secondary thought, very advanced”; England captain Joe Root says the test team will be missing Ben Stokes’ “heartbeat” but only concerned about his friend’s mental health; Watch the first test of England vs India starting at 10am Wednesday on Sky Sports Cricket

Joe Root says Ben Stokes’ well-being is far more important than cricket after the all-rounder decided to take an indefinite break from cricket.

England captain Joe Root admits that the test side is simply not the same without Ben Stokes, but is more interested in his well-being as a friend than as a match winner.

Stokes has taken an indefinite break from the game to prioritize his mental health and fully recover from a finger injury.

The absence of his star off-roader and vice-captain seriously weakens Root’s hand as he looks to get things back on track following losses in each of England’s last two test series. But for now, that’s not the priority.

“From my point of view, I just want my friend to be okay,” Root said.

“I had a conversation with Ben and that’s when I found out. The call will stay between the two of us, but it was hard for me to see a friend like that.

“Cricket has to be an afterthought, a long way in the future and should be taken as long as it takes. He has my full support on that, he has been assured that he has the full support of the ECB on that and he certainly has the support of the whole team.

“Anyone who knows Ben, he always puts other people in front of himself and now is an opportunity for him to put himself first, to take the time to take care of himself and get to a good place again. Hopefully sooner rather than later. ” . “

In the short term, others will have to put themselves in his shoes, first at Trent Bridge on Wednesday and then for the remainder of a five-game series against elite opponents.

“In my opinion, there is no one who compares to Ben Stokes in world cricket,” admitted Root.

“Obviously, for a long time, it’s been amazing, it’s the heart of this team. But that presents opportunities for others to step up and put in great performances. We’ve found ways to win without Ben there. This is another opportunity for them to step up. let’s try to do that. “

The Stokes situation is one of several unexpected problems that will require sensitive management by the ECB, as the long shadow of the coronavirus continues to cause other problems.

It is understood that the planned September white ball tour by Bangladesh is now likely to be postponed, due in part to the prevalence of Covid-19 in that part of the world, but also due to a clash with the rescheduled Indian Premier League.

Given the tight roster of matches, the ECB wouldn’t see that as the worst result, but this winter’s Ashes tour is also causing consternation.

The prospect of players’ families being barred from Australia is a source of great concern and possible last straw for those who have worked under a variety of restrictive bubbles and safe environments over the past 18 months.

Even Root, as a patron, accepted that there was an element of uncertainty about the viability of the trip.

“From the point of view of the players, and from my point of view, until we know what the terrain is, until we know the scenario, it is very difficult to make any kind of decision,” he said. “Of course there are challenges, but everyone is desperate to be part of an Ashes series in Australia.

“It is at what cost. Until we know what the terrain is, it is very difficult to make a decision.

“We are still very passionate about Ashes cricket, we know our responsibilities as players, we want to ensure the integrity of test cricket and the implications of this tour, so of course any decision that is made will not be made lightly. “.

With so many moving parts behind the scenes, it’s easy to miss a couple of important personal milestones that Root could mark in Nottingham.

He only needs 22 races to surpass Sir Alastair Cook’s career mark of 15,737, the most international races for England in all formats, and he is one more victory away from eclipsing Michael Vaughan’s record of 26 test victories as captain. .

Individual accolades aside, he said: “He would be more excited with us winning: winning the first round, starting well, trying to win the series.”

“I know if I score big runs it gives us a chance to win the game. That side will take care of itself. But test cricket is not about you, it is not about you as an individual, it is about winning for England and contribute to that. “

India’s batsman Mayank Agarwal has been ruled out of the first Test against England after a hit to the helmet in training left him with a suspected concussion.

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