NASSER HUSSAIN: Ben Stokes has given everything to England over the past few years but even a superhero has a limit… standing up and saying he needs a rest to focus on his mental wellbeing is a show of courage
- The lifestyle of our top cricketers during the pandemic has been really tough
- They went through bubble life and were away from loved ones to put on a show
- The amount of cricket this England team play is utterly ridiculous
- It was a matter of time before a senior player decided enough was enough
- Ben Stokes has a young family and he has absolutely made the right decision
It was only a matter of time before a senior England player decided enough was enough — and it was no great surprise to hear that player was Ben Stokes.
Ben has given everything to England over the past few years, and it was typical of the man that he returned to captain his country for the recent white-ball games against Pakistan even though he wasn’t fully fit.
But the lifestyle our leading cricketers have been asked to lead since the start of the pandemic has been incredibly tough, and it’s absolutely right that someone like Ben — who has a young family — has decided that he needs to look after his own wellbeing.
Ben Stokes has given everything to England over the past few years – it’s right he has decided that he needs to look after his own wellbeing
Last summer, with the whole country in lockdown, it felt as if the cricketers were putting on a show. They were prepared to go through bubble life, away from their loved ones, partly because it cheered everyone else up to watch some live sport.
But as society reopens now, the prospect of spending yet more time in the bio-bubble, away from your wife and kids, is not appetising.
It’s hard enough under normal circumstances saying goodbye to your family. To do it knowing you’re about to re-enter quarantine, and the four walls of your hotel room, is a nightmare.
Stokes will take an indefinite break from England duty to prioritise his mental wellbeing
For that reason, I would have absolutely no issue with any England player saying they don’t want to tour Australia this winter if their families aren’t allowed to accompany them.
I don’t believe we should be lecturing another country on their lockdown arrangements. But if those arrangements mean a player wants to opt out, then I fully respect that.
You also have to consider the amount of cricket this England team play. It’s utterly ridiculous. And it’s why Ashley Giles and Chris Silverwood have insisted on their rest and rotation policy. You might argue with some of the specific selectorial decisions they have made in that time — but you can’t argue with the general principle.
Stokes missed the Test series defeat for Joe Root’s men by New Zealand earlier this summer
What Ben has done is actually a show of strength.
By standing up and saying he needs a rest, he’s telling the world he can’t take it any more — and that takes courage.
Just look at everything he’s been through recently, not least with the death of his dad last year.
All the while, he’s been playing all the formats, including the IPL, and throwing himself headlong into any challenge that comes his way.
He was also set to miss the Pakistan ODI series but returned to captain a makeshift squad
Want a 15-over spell in a Test match to keep the opposition at bay? Ask Ben. Want an incredible Ashes hundred to rescue a lost cause? Ask Ben. Want an emergency opener for a super over in a World Cup final? Ask Ben.
He’s the closest English cricket has to a superhero — but even he has his breaking point. And it’s vitally important that he’s able to recognise that.
Ben Stokes has spent his career putting other people first. Now, clearly, is the time for him to prioritise himself. He must not rush back.
Stokes’ break will also help the left index finger injury that he suffered earlier this year heal