'Cricket is secondary, just want my friend to be okay': England skipper Root on Stokes

India vs England 2021 Test Series: While no one can replace a player of Stokes' calibre, Root is confident that youngsters like Sam Curran will rise to the occasion against India.

File Picture: Root called Stokes the 'heartbeat' of the team but agreed his absence would give youngsters more opportunities to shine   -  The Hindu

Calling Stokes the heartbeat of the team, England skipper Joe Root said he will be badly missed in the India series beginning Wednesday but considering the phase that he is in, cricket is secondary.

“Ben Stokes has always put the team first and it is time he put himself first”, said England skipper Joe Root about his friend and a star all-rounder who has taken an indefinite break from the game to address his mental wellbeing.

READ | Ben Stokes takes indefinite break to focus on mental health, to miss Test series against India

"Yeah, from my point of view, I just want my friend to be okay. I think anyone that knows Ben he always puts other people in front of himself and I think now is an opportunity for him to put himself first...”

“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.”

While no one can replace a player of Stokes' calibre, Root is confident that youngsters like Sam Curran will rise to the occasion, like he did in the 2018 home series against India.

England has a busy Test schedule lined up over the next six months with five games against India and as many against Australia in an away Ashes series.

With cricket continuing to be played in bio-bubbles, there is a possibility that more players like Stokes will be forced to take time off the game to live a "normal" life.

Root is also not ruling that out.

READ: India’s lower-order ready to contribute with bat against England: Rahane

"I think that's why it's important that we continue to keep talking especially whilst we're in safe living environments. There's good honest conversations between the players and ECB so that players can be looked after as best as possible.

"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 said.

Echoing India skipper Virat Kohli's views, Root said that cricket in protected environment is not sustainable.

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"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.”

It is not yet known if the England players will be allowed to take families to Australia for the Ashes. Root remains confident that ECB and Cricket Australia will do the needful when the time comes.

England will be under pressure having lost the home series to New Zealand in June.

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