Ben Stokes has withdrawn from England’s Test series against India and will take an indefinite hiatus from all forms of cricket to focus on his mental health and recuperate from a finger injury.
Stokes has spent the most of the last year living in bio-secure conditions with England’s Test and limited-overs squads, as well as with Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League. He missed two of England’s Tests against Pakistan last summer to visit his family in New Zealand, and his father, Ged, died in December following a year-long battle with brain cancer.
Throughout the summer, he also dealt with a finger ailment that has taken far longer to cure than expected. Stokes was pushed back to play for Durham in the Vitality Blast after a Covid-19 outbreak in their second XI squad caused an availability dilemma, and subsequently returned to England service ahead of schedule in identical circumstances, captaining a second-string team to a 3-0 ODI series success over Pakistan.
England men’s cricket director Ashley Giles said, “Stokes 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. Ben will be given as long as he needs and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future.”
Craig Overton has taken Stokes’ place in the team for the Test series, which begins on August 4 at Trent Bridge. His retirement is a big setback for England’s hopes in the series, especially given their troubles in his absence during the June series defeat to New Zealand.
The announcement highlights the reasons behind England’s divisive rest and rotation strategy, which has seen multi-format players kept out of multiple squads in order to give them time away from the game and with their families to help them cope with a punishing schedule.