England captain Joe Root opened on his teammate Ben Stokes' decision to take an indefinite break from cricket and said that he wants his friend to be okay. Stokes's decision was announced last week by the ECB. "Ben Stokes has withdrawn from England's Test squad ahead of the Test series against India starting next week to prioritize his mental wellbeing and to rest his left index finger, which has not fully healed since his return to competitive cricket earlier this month," the ECB statement read.
India are set to play a five-match Test series against England starting from Wednesday and Stokes is expected to not feature in the series.
On being asked about the situation at a virtual press conference, Root said that Stokes has always put the team first. "Ben Stokes has always put the team first and it is time he put himself first," Root was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
"Yeah, from my point of view, I just want my friend to be okay. I think anyone that knows Ben always puts other people in front of himself and I think now is an opportunity for him to put himself first...," he added.
"In my opinion, there's no one that compares Ben Stokes and so obviously for a long time now he has very much been the heartbeat of this team," he further said.
Root further stressed on the importance of figuring out a way to play cricket in safe environments without having to stay inside bio-bubbles for longer periods of time.
"I think that's why it's important that we continue to keep talking especially whilst we're in safe living environments. There are good honest conversations between the players and ECB so that players can be looked after as best as possible," he said.
"On the scheduling, and that's way off my roof. We've tried as best as we can over the last year to look after the players in terms of resting, rotating, giving guys the opportunity to get out of very difficult environments so that they can be as fresh for as long as possible," he signed off.
Echoing India skipper Virat Kohli's views, Root said that cricket in a protected environment is not sustainable.
"It's just important that we keep talking about that and that we said from the outset that we don't see this as a sustainable way of living, a sustainable way of playing and try to manage it as well as we can."