England all-rounder Ben Stokes has decided to take an indefinite break from cricket to prioritize his mental well-being and look after his injured left index finger. This puts him out of England's upcoming assignment - the five-match Test series against India which is the marque international event of the ongoing England summer.
Stokes was last seen in international cricket when he led England's second-string ODI side to a 3-0 series win over Pakistan. The 30-year old was not supposed to feature in that series but was summoned to join the squad when a bunch of Covid positive tests forced the main squad to isolate. Stokes played the series under immense pain in his fractured finger.
That was just a part of the emotional turmoil Stokes has been through ever since he was dropped from England's last tour of Australia due to the street brawl incident in Bristol. Stokes returned to the field but had to appear for court trials and missed the Lord's Test against India in 2018 after delivering a match-winning spell on the last day of the previous Test at Edgbaston.
A year later, he represented England in South Africa while his father, Ged Stokes, was admitted in hospital. Stokes delayed his appearance in IPL 2020 as he was looking after his father in New Zealand who was battling brain cancer. Sadly, his father passed away in December 2020. He also broke his left index finger in Rajasthan Royals' IPL 2021 season opener which he was nursing currently.
Amidst all the emotional turmoil, Stokes continued to be at his best on the field. He delivered a number of memorable performances, including some back against the wall match-winning knocks in the 2019 World Cup and the 2019 Ashes. Not to forget the constant bubble life which has become a new normal only adding to the strenuous demands of modern-day cricket.
Stokes will be a big miss for England against India given his middle-order batting credentials of late to go with his relentless stamina of bowling long spells. England have an army of all-rounders at their disposal to fill for his absence but no one of his quality. The ECB have announced Craig Overton as his replacement.
The ECB have also affirmed their support to Stokes. "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. 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," stated Ashley Giles, Managing Director of England Men's Cricket.
"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 will be given as long as he needs, and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future," he reiterated.
It is hopeful that Stokes would be available for the T20 World Cup in October-November and the Ashes Down Under to follow that up. While the India series stays relevant for England, regaining the Ashes in Australia is the Everest England want to climb. They surely won't want the events of 2017-18 to repeat where they missed their premier all-rounder, albeit due to different reasons.