Jos Buttler has received the backing of returning England captain Joe Root, who is confident his team-mate can transfer his white-ball batting talents to Test cricket.

Wicketkeeper Buttler averages 31.46 in the longest format but has failed to get beyond 47 in his last 12 innings, a worrying slump in form that has seen his place in the team come into question, with Ben Foakes waiting in the wings.

The right-hander made scores of 35 and nine during the first Test against West Indies last week, with his second-innings dismissal coming during a collapse that swayed the game in the touring side's favour.

England lost at Southampton by four wickets but the under-pressure Buttler is set to keep his place for the game in Manchester, which begins on Thursday.

Returning skipper Root, who missed the series opener due to the birth of his second child, has seen technical improvements in Buttler's game to suggest a big score is just around the corner.

"I think you look at Jos and the game last week - and a I know we're in a results business and we're judged on performances - but you watch how he batted in that first innings and I thought, technically, it was as well as he's played in a long time," Root told the media on the eve of the second Test.

"His game is in a really good place, it's just a matter of time until we see some of those special innings that we've seen in white-ball cricket and his performances from that transfer across.

"He's someone that is a big part of our group – has been for a long time – and is a great thinker about the game. He's a big senior player in the dressing room across all formats.

"You feel he's not far away from grabbing Test cricket, taking it and running with it. I've seen big strides off the field with his technical game, I suppose you almost want him to find that balance and mindset he has in white-ball cricket and add it to a technique that can definitely thrive in red-ball cricket."

Root was a keen spectator back home as the action unfolded in Southampton, where all-rounder Ben Stokes took charge of the team for the first time.

The Yorkshireman admits it was not easy watching on afar when fully fit, though he saw enough from his players to suggest there are positive signs for the future, despite the result.

"It was challenging, more so because you're fully fit and could be out there, it's just a very strange set of circumstances," Root said.

"Ben as captain did a brilliant job. He had some very difficult decisions to handle and manage, and I think on the ground and throughout the game he managed things very well.

"One thing that I was really pleased with, actually, is the performance for the first two and a half days we were probably behind the game, but we managed to find a way of wrestling ourselves into a position where we could win it.

"In the past, sometimes we've fallen away a bit early, but going into those last two sessions we still had a chance at winning the game.

"In a way it was a small step forwards for us, though of course we couldn't quite get across the line.

"You look at the back-end of our second innings and that really did hurt us, but I think there were a lot of positive things to take from it. You could certainly see that, sat watching from home."

England have confirmed Root will come into the XI in a place of Joe Denly, while James Anderson and Mark Wood are both rested.

England captain Joe Root has confirmed he will take Joe Denly's place in the side for the second Test against West Indies.

Root missed the first Test at the Rose Bowl – which the Windies won by four wickets – due to the birth of his second child.

However, the skipper has returned for the second Test, which starts at Old Trafford on Thursday, with the tourists aiming to secure their first series win in England since 1988 in the longest format.

Denly makes way, with the 34-year-old batsman having made 18 and 29 behind closed doors in Southampton.

With Root coming in at number four, Zak Crawley will move up to bat at three – the 22-year-old keeping his place in the side on the back of an impressive 76 in the second innings last week.

England have not confirmed the rest of the team, with Stuart Broad vying to be included after the experienced paceman was left out for the first Test.

Ben Stokes revealed that Joe Root left him a message telling the stand-in England captain to "do it your way" in the first Test against West Indies at the Rose Bowl.

Stokes will lead his country for the first time when the three-match series starts in Southampton on Wednesday, with Root absent as his wife is due to give birth to their second child.

The all-rounder will be open to advice from his team-mates and welcomed input from Root.

"The best message that I've received was when I got my photos done yesterday with the blazer," Stokes said on Tuesday. "Rooty just left a message on the hanger which said: 'do it your way.'

"When I first got asked I said I'd be open to opinions. Just because Joe's not here, that doesn't mean I'm not going to use him.

"Joe's always been very open and willing [to take] to advice from players, so I think I'd be stupid to go away from that. 

"We've got so much experience in this team that it would be silly not to lean on that if I feel like I need some advice."

Stokes added: "With Joe and his personal situation it's been a case of letting him deal with that

"I haven't been on him too much but I'm sure once the Test match starts, I know he'll be at home watching and I know that his phone will always be available for me to get in contact with him if I need to."

The tourists were 2-1 winners when the two nations did battle in the Caribbean last year, but both have a new head coach and Stokes believes England are a different proposition now.

"I think there's a lot more clarity with everybody," he said. "We have an identity as a Test team.

"Whereas in times gone past, a few lads might have felt under pressure with guys knocking the door down in a negative way, now we look at that in a positive way where there's competition for places in the team.

"If you're not performing well as a player, there's someone right behind you ready to come in. That's a great place to be in, especially as an international side.

"We have an identity now as a Test team. For us going forward, it's about building on that identity.

"We have a goal of becoming the best team in the world so we're building towards that."

Ben Stokes will lead by example when he captains England against West Indies, says Dom Sibley.

With Joe Root absent from England's squad for the first Test in Southampton due to the birth of his second child, Stokes is to take charge for the opening game of the three-match series.

Sibley looks set to open the batting alongside Rory Burns as England return to action after a lengthy coronavirus-enforced absence.

"The boys are all raring to go. We've had the three-day warm-up which was good practice, we're all looking forward to getting out in the middle," said Sibley.

"[Stokes] is just going to do what he does, lead from the front, lead by example.

"His quality and energy on the pitch is a unique skill and presence. He'll just use that.

"He's someone the young guys look up to and will continue to do that regardless of whether he's captain or not."

Sibley scored his maiden Test 100 against South Africa in Cape Town in January and impressed on the tour, though he did not get chance to build on those displays prior to lockdown.

However, the 24-year-old – who revealed he has lost 12 kilograms over the course of the break – acknowledged the rest has been helpful.

"At the time I was raring to go and it's new for me to be playing for England, so I was buzzing to play every game," he added.

"But you've got to try and take it as a positive and to have a break after such a long winter was nice. To sit back and work out what I needed to improve on to keep doing well at this level, further my game.

"I'm trying to build on what I did in South Africa and hopefully contribute to a few wins. A few of us did quite well in South Africa, it feels like a lifetime ago but it's a case of trying to build on that and trying to score a few big scores in the series.

"I've been working hard during lockdown, it was probably needed to be fair. Over the winter I was carrying too much weight. I'm glad I'm feeling a bit fitter."

All of the upcoming matches will be played behind closed doors, though Sibley does not feel his game will be affected too drastically.

"If I could have had a choice, it's always a dream to play a Test at Lord's or at your home ground in front of a packed house," he said.

"Circumstances haven't allowed that to happen. I'd always choose to have a crowd in but maybe it might work to my advantage. It's not going to change how I play, I'm just going to do my thing."

International cricket returns when England and West Indies begin their three-Test series on Wednesday, albeit in unprecedented circumstances.  

Bio-secure venues minus spectators, home umpires, potential coronavirus substitutes and no saliva on the ball are just some of the consequences of attempting to play during a global health pandemic. It will be Test cricket, just not quite as we have come to know it.  

There will also be a noticeable change to England’s team, too. With Joe Root out due to the birth of his second child, Ben Stokes will captain the team for the first time.  

The opportunity to lead in a Test perhaps completes the circle for the all-rounder. An incident outside a Bristol nightclub in 2017 cost him the vice-captaincy, but he has rehabilitated his reputation through his actions, both on and off the field, to reclaim the position as Root's deputy. 

Now, at 29, Stokes is preparing to become the 81st Test captain for England. It is a one-off on this occasion, yet also a potential dress rehearsal for the future. Root is the same age as his team-mate but has been in charge since February 2017; the grind eventually takes a toll on all who fill the role – and the numbers suggest performances suffer with the added burden.  

Sitting fourth in the official Test rankings, England will be wary of asking their talismanic all-rounder to do too much. For now, though, this is an opportunity for Stokes to step in and demonstrate his capabilities as a captain (a role he has not filled in first-class cricket previously). 

He has been second in command, now it is time to take on the top job, albeit temporarily. 

A (RECENT) HISTORY LESSON

Stokes will be the 11th different player to lead England in the 21st century. The last three to take on the job – Root, Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen – all started out with victories. 

Indeed, Michael Vaughan was the last skipper to suffer disappointment on his captaincy debut in the format, losing to South Africa at Lord's in July 2003. He was not aided by Nasser Hussain, the man who had stepped down prior to the match, dropping Graeme Smith when he had eight to his name. The left-hander went on to make 259 as the Proteas triumphed by an innings.

Mark Butcher stood in for a solitary game in August 1999, taking over with Hussain sidelined during the home series against New Zealand at Old Trafford. 

England drew that game but Butcher contributed just 14 runs in his two knocks during a weather-hit contest. He was dropped for the next game as England lost at The Oval to go down 2-1 in the series.

Cook was captain for 59 Tests – a record for England – while Michael Atherton (54), Vaughan (51) and Andrew Strauss (50) also made the half-century mark. Root's tally is at 39 and with a hectic itinerary mapped out over the next 18 months or so, dependent on any further complications caused by COVID-19, he will not have to wait too long to reach the milestone.

STOKES BY THE STATS 

To say Stokes is a key contributor for England is an understatement. His match-winning abilities with both bat and ball are hugely important as they bring balance to the XI. His presence means the attack can include five frontline bowlers without having to weaken the middle order. 

His overall statistics for Test cricket do not do justice to his talent. Stokes averages 36.5 with the bat in 63 Test appearances, yet he's recorded a mark of just over 47 across his 26 knocks since the start of 2019. 

Included is that unforgettable innings against Australia at Headingley last year, as he kept his side alive in the Ashes with an unbeaten 135. England chased down 359 on a fourth day that will live long in the memory for those who watched it, Stokes adding 73 with last-man Jack Leach – who contributed only a single to the cause – for company. 

The left-hander had already made a century in the previous Test of that series at Lord's, while earlier this year he hit 120 against South Africa in Port Elizabeth. 

Stokes passed 4,000 Test runs for his career during the series with the Proteas but now stands on the brink of another notable personal landmark.

He is just three shy of bringing up 150 wickets in the format. He posted career-best figures of 6-22 against West Indies in 2017, with his overall average against the men from the Caribbean a touch better than his career mark (31.09 compared to 32.68). 

THE NUMBERS GAME

So, is captaincy a hindrance or a help? Considering his importance to the team, England will be loathed to overburden Stokes, a factor that would be considered when deciding if he is the right candidate to replace Root for more than just the odd Test. 

Ian Botham - another great all-rounder - did not prosper during his stint as captain. His 12-Test reign saw him average a meagre 13.14 with the bat (his career number finished at 33.54) and ended with a pair during the 1981 Ashes. Freed of the responsibility as Mike Brearley took over, Botham produced a series of blistering performances to make sure England retained the urn, including an innings at Headingley comparable to Stokes' knock.

Kevin Pietersen, meanwhile, also found it a difficult role during his three matches in charge. The best player is not necessarily the ideal candidate. 

"The entertainers and the guys that have to carry that mantle in the team sometimes aren't the best captains, and sometimes struggle with the extra added pressure," Pietersen told talkSPORT.

"You get looked at completely differently. Responsibilities change, communication changes, the way in which you carry yourself in the dressing room changes. It's a difficult place to be. I struggled with it: I absolutely hated it, and I was rubbish."

Root has seen his batting output slip considerably since taking on the added responsibility. Having averaged 52.8 in his first 53 Tests, the right-hander has since made 3,005 runs at 42.9 in his games as captain. Good, but not great.

Vaughan too suffered a drop, averaging 36 in his 51 Tests in charge, compared to 51 for the rest of his career. Cook, however, improved during his tenure, going up from 44.6 to 46.6, as did fellow opener Atherton (35.3 to 40.6).

England will have to work out if the risk is worth the reward in terms of Stokes becoming captain, considering what he means to the side. At least the series opener against West Indies will offer a potential glimpse into the future. 

West Indies fast bowler Kemar Roach believes the absence of England captain Joe Root and changed batting line-up, ahead of the upcoming series, could serve as a double edge sword for the Caribbean team.

Root will miss the first Test of the series to be at the birth of his second child and the pacer could face only two of the top six in a batting line-up he dominated in the Caribbean last year.  Newcomers Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, and Ollie Pope are set to join the line-up in Southampton along with Joe Denly, who played the second and third Tests of England's Caribbean tour last year.

“It’s different conditions now, we are in England this time around.  I see England has also made some changes to their batting line-up so it’s all about assessing each batsman and following-up their weaknesses and exploiting them,” Roach told members of the media via a Zoom press conference on Sunday.

“Of course, I would love to have the same batting line because it’s what we got used to for the last few series but there are a few changes so it’s all about sticking to the game plan,” he added.

“A Test match without Root, the fantastic stats he has, is going to be a bit of an advantage for us.  He's one that keeps the England batting together, he's done fantastically for them for the last couple of years,” he added.

"Without him, it is a bit of an advantage for us, but also a little bit of a disadvantage because there are some new guys coming in that we obviously have to work out and see what their weaknesses are and try to exploit them. So it goes 50-50, but once we get stuck in and hit our straps and put the balls in the right area I think we stand a very good chance of going out there and performing well."

England have opted not to recall Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali for their first Test against West Indies, but Dom Bess does make the 13-man squad.

Test cricket returns on Wednesday when England meet the Windies behind closed doors in Southampton in the opening Test of a three-match series.

Ben Stokes will captain the side for the first time as regular skipper Joe Root has left the team bubble to attend the birth of his second child.

Sam Curran, who has been battling illness, is the only other player to miss out from the XI that faced South Africa in Johannesburg in England's last Test in January.

The squad for the West Indies Test also includes Rory Burns, James Anderson and Jofra Archer - who were missing at the Wanderers due to injury - and spinner Bess, who played earlier in the South Africa series.

There is no recall for either Bairstow or Moeen, neither of whom are included on the nine-man reserve list, which does feature Curran.

Bairstow has not played since scoring a combined 10 across two innings against South Africa in the first Test of that series last December.

All-rounder Moeen has not featured in the five-day game since the 2019 Ashes having opted out of England's three tours since, though he was named in the 30-man squad that has been training in preparation for the Windies series.

Uncapped pair James Bracey and Dan Lawrence - both of whom scored half-centuries in the intra-squad match this week - are on the reserve list too along with bowling options Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood and Ollie Robinson.

England have confirmed Ben Stokes will captain the Test side against West Indies next week as Joe Root will attend the birth of his second child. 

Regular skipper Root will leave the team's training camp on Wednesday to be with his wife, Carrie, who is expecting their child later this week.

Due to coronavirus protocol, Root will need to self-isolate for seven days once he leaves the hospital, meaning he will miss the start of the first Test, which begins on July 8.

All-rounder Stokes, who is normally the vice-captain, will therefore fill in for Root as the skipper for the first of the three Tests.

Root is due to return to the role for the second Test, which begins in Manchester on July 13.

West Indies pace bowler Shannon Gabriel insists there is no malice between himself and England captain Joe Root, after a heated exchange between the duo led to a four-match suspension when the teams met in the Caribbean last year.

During the series, Root was picked up on the stump mics responding to an unheard comment from Gabriel. "Don't use it as an insult," he said. "There's nothing wrong with being gay."

Gabriel was charged the next day for an alleged homophobic remark and did not contest the charges.  The footage received widespread attention.  The player was charged with a Level Two offence under article 2.13 of the ICC's Code of Conduct, covering "personal abuse".

Having recently recovered from injury, Gabriel could be in line to face up with Root again when the teams compete in a three-Test series next month.  The bowler has downplayed the incident and has insisted he has long moved past it.

"To be honest that was in the past," Gabriel said. "I don't really think about it too much. Whatever happened or whatever was said, I don't really want to harp on about that, I'm just looking to the future now. I've just come here to play good cricket if selected, and do my best for West Indies cricket,” he added.

"I just think the way they dealt with it was blown way out of proportion," he added. "The story that was told was not entirely true, but I just want to move on and forget that."  

Former England Test captain Kevin Pietersen does not want to see Ben Stokes made skipper should Joe Root miss a game against West Indies next month.

England are set to return to action with three behind-closed-doors Tests against the Windies at the Rose Bowl and Old Trafford.

However, current five-day captain Root may be missing for one of those fixtures as his wife, Carrie, is due to give birth, with the batsman conceding he would leave the bio-secure areas in Southampton and Manchester to attend the birth.

Root has not missed a Test since being named captain in 2017 but has backed current vice-captain Stokes to step up should he not be available.

However, Pietersen has advised against having all-rounder Stokes fill the void given his own brief experience of a role he had for only three Tests.

"Do I want to see Ben Stokes change from who he is and the current player he is? Probably not, Jos Buttler would be my guy," Pietersen, who resigned as England captain in 2009, told talkSPORT.

"The entertainers and the guys that have to carry the mantle in the team sometimes aren't the best captains and sometimes struggle with the extra added pressure.

"As a player you are looked at completely differently until that phone call comes and you are announced as the Test captain.

"Responsibilities change, communication changes, the way in which you carry yourself in the dressing room changes.

"I struggled with it, I absolutely hated it and I was rubbish. You have to change and I couldn't command the respect of the dressing room. You say something and it is frowned upon, it is a completely different story."

Joe Root could miss the first Test of the scheduled behind-closed-doors series between England and West Indies with his second child due to arrive next month.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on Tuesday, that subject to government approval, England will contest three matches with the Windies at the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford.

Root's men were set to face the Windies in a three-Test series beginning on Thursday with matches at The Oval, Edgbaston and Lord's but that was not possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The England captain may be absent for the first Test of the re-arranged series at the Ageas Bowl, starting on July 8, with the ECB exploring ways for him to leave the bio-secure bubble that will see players isolated from the general public.

Root said: "The start of July is the due date, so that complicates things slightly. 

"In terms of the bubble, and the pregnancy, it's being discussed with the medical team. At the minute, it's still open for discussion, how that will finally look, I'm not exactly sure. It will have to come down to government advice."

Root confirmed he would be at the birth even if it required him missing the first Test and said of prospective deputy Ben Stokes: "I think if Ben was captain he would be fantastic.

"One of his great qualities as a leader is he sets the example. He drags people with him and gets the best out of the players around him.

"He'll have people wanting to play for him and short-term he'd be a huge success."

England Test captain Joe Root is in support of finding a way to make sure his side can welcome a visit from the West Indies as early as July.

For that to happen, the players would have to go through rigid isolation and testing protocols, as well as austere social distancing measures.

Of course, the proposal will include officials as well as media and the England skipper thinks it can work.

“I’m optimistic about it. It would be a real shame if it doesn’t happen. The public are desperate for some live sport and the guys are missing it,” said Root.
“The players would be sectioned off in one part of the hotel and would be in isolation together. There would be no interaction with the media, the TV crews or even the opposition when off the pitch.

“We would have separate lunchrooms. It would have a different feel to it but it’s probably manageable. Hopefully that is the case.”

According to the proposals, the three Tests would be played at ‘bio-secure’ venues behind closed doors.

Those venues, the proposal points out, are those that have hotels on location, like Manchester, Southampton and Headingly.

Root, while optimistic, is cognizant of the fact that Cricket West Indies (CWI) would have to take the risk.

In response, West Indies Test captain Jason Holder, has said his side would have to be certain of their safety before saying yes to such a proposal.

“This thing has been really, really serious as we all know and has claimed quite a few lives throughout the world and that’s the last thing any of us would really want,” said Holder.

“I think we’ve got to play the safety card first before we can even think about resuming our normal lives.”

In the meantime, CWI Chief Executive, Johnny Grave, has said the England Cricket Board’s proposals were being considered but that first all the moving parts would have to be understood.
England will be desperate to get back the Wisden Trophy they lost to the West Indies last year for the first time in a decade.

Ben Stokes admitted all those involved with the England team will never forget what happened at Headingley in 2019 after he re-watched the dramatic conclusion to the third Ashes Test.

With the global coronavirus crisis shutting down the cricket schedule, Stokes and Test captain Joe Root joined Sky Sports pundits Rob Key and Nasser Hussain to view the final stages of the famous game against Australia last August.

As the footage played out in full, the all-rounder provided a unique insight into what was going through his mind as he dragged his side to an improbable one-wicket triumph, aided by one not out from number 11 Jack Leach.

Stokes, meanwhile, finished up unbeaten on 135 as the hosts reached a victory target of 359, an astonishing achievement considering they had been nine down in their second innings with 73 runs still required.

"It's always going to be great memories, one of the great days – not just out on the field but memories we will always have together as a group," Stokes said on Sky Sports after the moment was aired of him hitting the winning boundary through the covers.

"The changing room is sacred as a cricketer – that evening after this day was just sensational.

"Us, as a group of players, the support group and team management, will always be able to look back at that day, on the field with what happened and then also memories we created in the changing room. It's awesome, so good."

Both Stokes and Root admitted they were sweating while taking in the action despite already knowing the outcome, though the former had to look away at the moment when Australia missed the chance to run out Leach with two runs needed.

Nathan Lyon had been unable to claim the throw but thought he had redeemed himself with a loud lbw shout in the same over, only for umpire Joel Wilson to turn down the appeal. The tourists had already used up their final review too, denying them the opportunity to challenge a decision that would have been overturned with the aid of DRS.

"Joel Wilson will always have a special place in my heart for that moment," Root joked.

Stokes, however, remained convinced it was always missing, adding: "Going down leg, mate. It doesn't spin."

Asked to recall his thoughts immediately after the victory, skipper Root - who contributed 77 in the successful chase - replied: "Relieved. Extremely proud of Ben as well.

"The journey he had been on the year before, for him to be the centre of everything was perfect for him. He's a massive part of the team and the dressing room and I couldn't have been prouder of him."

Australia lost in Leeds but still went on to retain the Ashes in the next game, beating their rivals at Old Trafford. The series finished 2-2, England victorious in the final Test at The Oval.

England captain Joe Root has been inspired to "do something special" during the next Ashes series against Australia after watching 'The Test'.

Root, like the rest of the United Kingdom, is in lockdown in a measure aimed at limiting the spread of the coronavirus.

With plenty of downtime, Root has started watching the Amazon docuseries 'The Test', which follows the fortunes of Australia's cricket team across eight episodes and culminates in the 2019 Ashes in England.

That series ended in a 2-2 draw, resulting in the tourists retaining the urn, and Root is now even more fired up for the next Ashes between the two countries in 2021-22.

"I resisted watching it for a good while but, having exhausted a lot of the shows I wanted to watch, it has come around," Root said on a conference call with reporters on Monday.

"It has been a good motivator to get back on the bike and incentivise myself.

"It goes without saying that the World Test Championship is very important and each game holds a huge amount of weight as we try and get into that final [scheduled for June 2021]. But a lot of things we do revolve around planning for that Ashes series.

"We have around 17-20 games until we go there and play - if all are played - and we have to use every opportunity to be ready for what those conditions throw at us, what Australia throw at us on and off the field.

"We need to use this time to ready ourselves to do something special because we know how challenging it can be to play there."

England were due to be in Sri Lanka now for a two-Test series, but they returned home as sporting events started to get cancelled amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Root's team are due to face West Indies and Pakistan in home Test series in the coming months, though they would appear in doubt too.

There have been reports that the Sri Lanka trip could be rearranged prior to England's five-Test tour of India in 2021 and Root is mindful about burnout for his squad.

"It would be a very tough winter, a huge amount of workload, especially on the multi-format players, but we have had some tough winters in the past and found ways to get through them," he added.

"It would be interesting to see how they would fit it in looking at the schedule right now but if it was to go ahead, we would have to be able to adapt, look at the squad sizes we take over and make sure guys weren't blown out and overworked."

 Joe Root says there is "an element of relief" that England's Test series in Sri Lanka was postponed due to the spread of coronavirus.

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) confirmed on Friday it had made the decision to return its players to the United Kingdom after discussions with Sri Lanka Cricket.

England were due to play two Test matches in Sri Lanka, starting in Galle on March 19.

The ECB said the "physical and mental well-being of our players" is its priority and captain Root has backed the call to abandon the tour.

"The right decision has been made," he told Sky Sports. "There was an element of relief. You could see looking at the players that their minds were elsewhere, thinking about people back home.

"Now that we can go and look after families and be with loved ones, that's put a lot of guys at ease." 

England's second warm-up fixture with a SLC Board President's XI was abandoned on Friday when news of the Tour cancellation was announced. 

"Naturally there was a lot of talk in the dressing room and it got to a stage where it overshadowed the cricket," Root said. 

"Looking at how quickly things have happened at home, you're thinking about family and friends who might be a bit more vulnerable and that's hard when you're a long way away. 

"It was clear it was getting in the way of performance and affecting the mental well-being of the guys." 

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