Sangakkara and Pietersen give backing to Stokes after England star steps away from cricket

By Sports Desk July 30, 2021

Kumar Sangakkara believes pandemic cricket is taking an increasing toll on cricket's leading starts after Ben Stokes decided to take an indefinite break from the game.

England vice-captain Stokes made an ahead-of-schedule return from a finger injury to lead a reserve squad to a 3-0 ODI series win over earlier this month after a coronavirus outbreak saw the initial party stood down en masse.

It was the latest demonstration of the particular challenges these times bring for elite cricketers, with all-rounder Stokes an all-format player who has spent large chunks of the past year in bio-secure bubbles on home soil and away in Sri Lanka and India.

The T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates precedes a December-January Ashes series in Australia and Stokes, who featured in the inaugural Hundred for the Northern Superchargers has elected to take a step back ahead the forthcoming five-match home Test series against India.

A statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) said the 30-year-old would "prioritise his mental wellbeing and rest his left index finger", with managing director of England men's cricket Ashley Giles acknowledging "the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded" the pressures of top-level cricket.

Speaking to Sky Sports, former Sri Lanka captain Sangakkara suggested such occurrences were likely to become more commonplace the longer sport has to coexist with the global health crisis.

"It all adds up. A lot of time away from home, a lot of time in bubbles, restrictions in terms of freedom of movement, a lot of protocols in place. Then the added pressure of performing at such an intensely high level in the public eye," he said.

"It's very difficult to pinpoint what could be different. Individuals deal with things differently and, over time, you can reach a point where you need a breather and a break.

"He needs support and good people around him and hopefully he's back as soon as possible.

"In the news, we've had a host of athletes who've spoken about mental well-being, the effects of COVID and the pressure around it."

Kevin Pietersen, the former England batsman, also gave the star his best wishes, noting the pain Stokes endured when his father died in December last year after a battle with cancer.

"I hope he's okay. He's a fabulous cricketer, one of the best in the world at the moment," Pietersen told Sky Sports.

“He obviously lost his dad, there are a lot of things that have happened to Ben Stokes in the last couple of years.

"I don't want to comment too much on it because we don't know what the issue is. All I know is I want him to be okay."

Related items

  • T20 World Cup: England complete dominant victory against Bangladesh T20 World Cup: England complete dominant victory against Bangladesh

    England romped to another impressive win at the T20 World Cup as they beat Bangladesh by eight wickets at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Abu Dhabi on Wednesday.

    Jason Roy starred as he plundered 61 from 38 balls, helping his team ease to the 125-run target set by their opponents for victory with almost six overs remaining.

    Bangladesh won the toss and chose to bat first. They got off to a promising start, putting 10 runs on the board in the first over, with Liton Das hitting Moeen Ali for two boundaries.

    However, things soon turned as Moeen (2-18) took two wickets in two balls in the third over, and from there the runs dried up as the wickets steadily fell.

    Chris Woakes (1-12) and Liam Livingstone (2-15) impressed with the ball, and the only moment that resembled a fightback from Bangladesh was in the 19th over when Adil Rashid (0-35) was hit for 17, including the only two sixes of the innings from Nasum Ahmed (19).

    A solid final over with the ball from Tymal Mills (3-27) saw just four runs scored, with two wickets coming in the final two balls of the innings to leave Bangladesh on 124-9 from their 20 overs, a total England comfortably reached.

    Roy sets tone for England reply

    Roy smashed the first ball of the innings for four and Jos Buttler hit 18 from 18 balls before falling to Nasum (1-26).

    Dawid Malan (28 not out) continued the England momentum but it was five fours and three sixes from Roy in exactly an hour at the crease which did most of the heavy lifting for England.

    The opener was out before the end when he hit a Shoriful Islam (1-26) ball into the hands of Nasum, allowing Jonny Bairstow (eight not out) to see his team home with 35 balls still remaining, giving Eoin Morgan's side their second win in as many games in the tournament.

    Moeen makes swift progress

    Bangladesh had not had a display of Roy's ilk in their own top order thanks to the exploits of Moeen with the ball. Quickly recovering from a potentially damaging first over, the spinner mopped up Das and Mohammad Naim from consecutive balls to reduce Bangladesh to 14-2.

    Those were Moeen's third and fourth power play wickets at this World Cup, only trailing Maheesh Theekshana (five) in that regard. Despite the initial wobble, he has also managed an economy rate of 5.5 and a dot ball rate of 64 per cent in this period.

  • Steve Smith welcomes 'dangerous' Stokes' Ashes return Steve Smith welcomes 'dangerous' Stokes' Ashes return

    Steve Smith believes the return of "dangerous" England all-rounder Ben Stokes makes for a mouthwatering Ashes series.

    Stokes has not played since July, having taken a break to protect his mental wellbeing while he also recovered from a broken finger.

    The England vice-captain underwent a second operation on his finger but recently posted footage of himself batting and bowling in the nets.

    Stokes was initially omitted from the squad for the tour of Australia, but the England and Wales Cricket Board on Monday announced that he has been added to the squad.

    Australia batsman Smith has welcomed the news that Stokes will be involved, with the Ashes getting under way at The Gabba on December 8.

    "I think any team's more dangerous when you've got someone like Ben Stokes playing," Smith said.

    "It certainly adds a lot to their depth, but like I said we're excited and I'm glad personally that he's able to be back playing some cricket. It makes for a really good series."

     

    Smith has been troubled by an elbow injury, but the former Australia captain does not expect it to be an issue when Tim Paine's side attempt to retain the urn.

    Quoted in the Australian press on Tuesday, Smith said: "I've tried to bat every second day, or not bat three days in a row, just to take a bit of load off. On the days I'm batting, I'm batting for as long as I want to, which is nice.

    "I'm still taking it easy at the moment. I'll build up again as we get closer to playing some longer format stuff. It is in a good place, it feels really good. I'm continuing with my strength work and my rehab stuff – I feel like I'm going well and progressing along nicely, so I've got no real concerns [for the Ashes]."

  • Stokes added to England Ashes squad after recovery from finger injury Stokes added to England Ashes squad after recovery from finger injury

    Ben Stokes has been added to the England squad for the Ashes tour of Australia.

    The Durham all-rounder was omitted from the original selection as he continued his recovery from a second operation on a broken finger.

    Stokes, who sustained the injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April, announced in July he was taking a break from cricket to protect his mental wellbeing and allow his finger to recover.

    Having been given the all-clear by the medical team of the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), the 30-year-old will depart for Australia with the Test and Lions squad on November 4.

    "I had a break to prioritise my mental wellbeing and I got my finger sorted," Stokes said.

    "I am looking forward to seeing my mates and being on the field with them. I'm ready for Australia."

     

    Ashley Giles, managing director of England Men's Cricket, said: "Following a very successful operation on his finger and several conversations over the last few weeks between Ben and I, our medical staff and his management team, Ben called me to say he was ready to return to cricket and was excited about the prospect of playing a significant role in the Ashes series.

    "Time and time again, Ben has demonstrated how important he is to the England team and having him available for the Ashes series is excellent news for all of us and, in particular, [coach] Chris [Silverwood], Joe [Root] and the rest of the players.

    "Having not played for some time, we will move forward cautiously over the next few weeks to ensure he is fully prepared across all facets of his game.

    "Ahead of a very busy period of cricket, we continue to remain mindful of the stresses on all our personnel, and our primary focus continues to be the wellbeing of all of our players and support staff."

    The Ashes begins at The Gabba on December 8 and concludes a month later at Optus Stadium in Perth.

    England are looking to regain the urn after it was retained by Australia following a 2-2 series draw in 2019.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.