Ben Stokes has revealed he feared he may never play cricket again while taking a break from the sport to prioritise his mental health last year.

Stokes, who was appointed as England's Test captain in April, spent five months away from the sport in 2021 after suffering panic attacks.

The 31-year-old had taken a period of compassionate leave to spend time with his father ahead of his passing in December 2020, having previously struggled after rushing his recovery from a broken figure.

Ahead of the airing of an Amazon Prime documentary detailing Stokes' experiences throughout that time, he recalled how his decision to step away from cricket was the culmination of a long-term battle.

"It wasn't a case where it was a two-week thing or a couple of months thing, the whole thing was a build-up over a long, long period of time, maybe two, three, four years," Stokes told the BBC.

"It was like I had a glass bottle I kept on throwing my emotions and feelings into. While I was doing that, the bottle was filling up to where, eventually, it got too full and just exploded. I reacted in the way I did and felt like, 'I need to get away from here'."

Asked whether he considered calling time on his playing career, Stokes said: "At the time, yeah, that's where I was at. It was a very, very tough time.

"One of the more powerful things that I notice from the film, was when Stuart Broad was on camera and he said the same thing, he actually said he could see me not playing again.

"I had never spoken to Stuart about that through my time away. I spoke to him a lot through that period but just general chit-chat, nothing too serious.

"I had never said the words to him, 'I'm not sure if I'm going to play again', but the fact that he got that feeling was an eye-opener to me that at that time, things were quite bad."

After assuming the captaincy in April, Stokes oversaw four consecutive victories, three against New Zealand and one against India, before England were thrashed within three days by South Africa at Lord's last week.

While Stokes believes his early success as skipper vindicates the decision to take a break, he was left irritated when his struggles became a talking point after his appointment.

"When Joe [Root] stepped down and the opportunity was there for me to take it, I was actually quite annoyed about some of the press around it, because they linked the England captaincy and my mental health break with each other," he added.

"It felt like people were saying I couldn't do the job because I decided to take a break for mental health last year.

"What's that got to do with being England captain? If anything, it shows that you can do anything, even if you have decided to take a break, it's fine. 

"I did an interview where I'd give off this bravado of being a big tough northern lad with tattoos. I am tough, but that doesn't mean that I can't struggle mentally.

"These things, you can't pick and choose when they're going to hit you. It's not like a switch in your brain, going, 'today I'm going to feel good, tomorrow I'm going to feel bad'."

Stokes is also keen to ensure his willingness to talk about his mental health acts as an inspiration for younger generations, adding: "We all know that as England players, we've got more responsibility than just going out and performing on the field.

"Young kids these days will look at us and want to play like us, they'll want to do what we do because that's who they look up to.

"If I was to shy away and not speak about anything that I've gone through, I don't think I would be doing the responsibility that's been set on me. Shying away is something I would never do."

England will begin their first red-ball tour of Pakistan since 2005 on December 1 in Rawalpindi, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has confirmed.

Earlier this month, it was announced that England would travel to Pakistan for the first time in 17 years for a seven-match T20 series in September, and the dates have now been confirmed for the Test team's visit three months later.

Security concerns have prevented England from touring Pakistan since 2005, when Michael Vaughan's Ashes-winning side succumbed to a 3-2 series defeat.

But Brendon McCullum's red-ball side will now face Pakistan in a three-match series before the end of the year, travelling to Multan and Karachi after playing their first ever Test match in Rawalpindi.

The contests will follow on from a camp in Abu Dhabi, which will begin on November 18 and will take in a three-day warm-up match against the Lions at the Zayed Cricket Complex.

Clare Connor, the ECB's interim chief executive officer, said: "The return of our men's Test team to Pakistan for the first time since 2005 will be an historic occasion. 

"The opportunity to play Test cricket in front of passionate cricket-lovers in Pakistan after such a long time is something to be cherished. 

"We have been working closely with the PCB over recent months and I am grateful to them for everything they have done, and continue to do, to make our Test and T20 tours a mouth-watering prospect for all involved."

The PCB's director of international cricket Zakir Kahn added: "We are pleased that the Pakistan and England Test rivalry, which has historically produced close and tight matches, will return to our backyards in December. 

"Both the sides have evolved since they last played in Pakistan in 2005 and have recently been playing entertaining and exciting cricket. 

"I remain confident this series will live up to the expectations of the global cricket fans who want to watch and enjoy competitive and thrilling matches."

Before England can switch their focus to the trip to Pakistan, they must find a way to overturn a 1-0 deficit in their ongoing three-match series against South Africa, having been thrashed within three days at Lord's last week. 

David Warner remains content to be a leader "without having a title" but would be open to discussions with Cricket Australia to remove his lifetime ban from holding a captaincy position.

Opening batter Warner was embroiled in controversy back in 2018, partnering with Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft as the trio were punished for their involvement in a ball-tampering scandal against South Africa.

All three players were handed a year-long ban for their role in the Newlands Test scandal, though Warner was punished the most severely as he was banned from holding a leadership position ever again.

The 35-year-old expressed fears he would never play for his country again but has since returned to enjoy T20 World Cup success, coupled with an Ashes demolition of England.

While Warner has quietly returned to the fore both nationally and domestically, growing calls have suggested his ban should be removed so he can replace Usman Khajawa as Sydney Thunder captain in the Big Bash League.

"That hasn't really been brought to the table," he said on Sunday when asked if there could be a change of heart at Cricket Australia. 

"As I've said plenty of times off the record, it's upon the board to reach out to me and open their doors. Then I can sit down and have an honest conversation with them.

"The board has changed since back in 2018 and when all those sanctions were dealt. It would be great to have a conversation with them and see where we are at."

Regardless of whether Warner holds a position within Pat Cummins' Australian leadership team or with the Thunder, the left-handed opener believes he can still play a role without a title.

"I've got the experience, I'm a leader in the side anyway without having a title," he added.

"That's what I'm about, giving back, so if they [younger players] can pick my brains in any way, my phone is always there, they have my number, and they can see me when I'm at the practice facilities."

Dean Elgar declared "you do not want to poke the bear" after "angry man" Anrich Nortje played a big part in South Africa's thrashing of England at Lord's.

The tourists took a 1-0 lead in the three-match series inside three days, bowling Ben Stokes' side out for 165 and 149 to win by an innings and 12 runs.

England were unable to live with a hostile Proteas pace quartet, spearhead Kagiso Rabada named man of the match after he took 5-52 in the first innings and 2-27 on Friday.

Marco Jansen (2-13) and Lungi Ngidi (1-15) also did damage after spinner Keshav Maharaj took 2-35, as England meekly folded to lose their perfect record under captain Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum.

It was the rapid Nortje who was South Africa's main man on the third day, though, making an unbeaten 28 as he was peppered with short balls before charging in to take 3-47.

Proteas captain Elgar said of the fast bowler's performance: "It was some of the quickest bowling I have seen.

"The catch our keeper [Kyle] Verreynne took to get rid of Jonny Bairstow was one of the quickest balls he has ever had to catch and it was a pretty big wicket at the time.

"It was a hostile spell of bowling. He is an angry man and you don't want to poke the bear. He bowls at 90 mph. It's great to have him in my changing room."

Elgar was surprised to wrap up the victory just over halfway through the match and vowed to celebrate in style.

He added on the BBC's Test Match Special: "I can't [believe it has finished so quickly] but I think I will when I wake up tomorrow with a hangover.

"It was a team effort. There were a few standout performances but everyone played their part, including the guys who weren't playing. So it is a pretty good squad effort."

Much has been made of England's new aggressive approach to Test cricket, but Elgar will be sticking to his tried and tested formula.

He said: "I'm still a purist when to comes to Test cricket. I don't stuff around with too many styles of play. I think the game demands and kinda deserves it."

Brendon McCullum says England have not become a bad team overnight after they were thrashed by South Africa in the first Test at Lord's.

England had started a new era under head coach McCullum and captain Ben Stokes by whitewashing New Zealand 3-0 and beating India in a rearranged match at Edgbaston to draw the series.

They were brought crashing back down to earth six weeks after that win over India, as the tourists hammered them by an innings and 12 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

England were thrashed inside three days, failing to live with a potent Proteas pace attack in a one-side match that saw them fold to 165 all out in the first innings and only 149 in the second.

McCullum says they must take the chastening defeat on the chin and hit back at Old Trafford next week.

"South Africa deserved the victory. We have a little bit of work to do, but you don't go from being a good team to a bad one overnight." the former New Zealand skipper told Sky Sports.

McCullum felt if anything England were too "timid' rather than overly aggressive.

He said: "It was the type of wicket that the boys reflected that you get in, then you got a cracking delivery from nowhere. I thought our approach was alright

"I think over the last four wins we've had there have been times where we have been behind then able to absorb it and turn it back on the opposition. We couldn't do that today.

"As we said at the outset, you have to buckle up for the ride. We'll come back stronger."

McCullum added: "The wicket was challenging at times and some of the balls were too good for us. If anything I thought some of the dismissals were a bit timid today. We won't overreact after this."

Alex Lees and Stuart Broad top scored with 35 apiece. The hostile pace quartet of Anrich Nortje (3-47), Kagiso Rabada (2-27), Marco Jansen (2-13) and Lungi Ngidi (1-15) tore through England after spinner Keshav Maharaj took 2-35 on Friday.

South Africa emphatically consigned England to a first Test defeat of their new era as Ben Stokes' side were thrashed by an innings and 12 runs inside three days at Lord's.

The potent Proteas pace attack did much of the damage once again, bowling a fragile England out for only 149 in 37.4 overs on Friday.

Dean Elgar's men dominated from start to finish in London, taking a first innings lead of 161 by posting 326 all out in reply to England's 165.

The tourists wrapped up the victory just over two-and-half days into the first of three Tests in the series to go 1-0 up, with the wickets shared between magnificent quicks Anrich Nortje (3-27), Kagiso Rabada (2-27), Marco Jansen (2-13) and Lungi Ngidi (1-15) after Keshav Maharaj took 2-27.

It was a chastening defeat for England, Stuart Broad and Alex Lees the joint top-scorers with 35 as they lost their perfect record since Stokes was appointed captain and Brendon McCullum head coach.

Broad took a brilliant one-handed catch for Matthew Potts to dismiss Rabada after South Africa resumed on 289-7, before claiming two wickets of his own to end the innings and leave Nortje unbeaten on 28.

Spinner Maharaj had England in trouble on 38-2 at lunch, dismissing the out-of-sorts Zak Crawley (13) leg before and trapping Ollie Pope (five) in front with the last ball of the morning session.

The Proteas pace attack again came to the fore in the afternoon session, Ngidi getting rid of Joe Root (six) before a fired up Nortje had Jonny Bairstow (18), Lees and Ben Foakes (nought) caught behind.

Broad came out swinging (35) as he put on 55 with Ben Stokes for the seventh wicket before he was deceived by a slower ball from Rabada and Jansen cleaned up Potts.

Stokes (20) picked out Maharaj in the deep knowing he was almost out of partners to become Rabada's second victim and Jansen bowled James Anderson with a quick yorker to put England out of their misery.

Proteas fire to blow England away

England had won all four Tests under their new coach and captain, whitewashing New Zealand 3-0 and beating India in a rearranged match at Edgbaston.

They were brought down to earth by a ruthless South Africa, who showed why they are top of the World Test Championship. Their fast bowlers fired on all cylinders as England were beaten by an innings at Lord's for only the second time in 52 Tests since June 1993.

Left-arm tweaker Maharaj was not required to bowl in the first innings, but he set the ball rolling in England's second innings before the quicks ripped through the hosts.

Crawley could pay the price

Opener Crawley has been backed by Stokes and McCullum, but he could pay the price for two more failures.

England must regroup before the second Test at Old Trafford, where Crawley may have to step aside. 

Stuart Broad reached 100 wickets in Lord's Tests, but it was emphatically South Africa's day at Lord's as England suffered a dose of their own medicine.

On day two of the first Test, South Africa clipped the English tail to turn an overnight 116-6 into 165 all out, before going on to reach 289-7 themselves by stumps.

South Africa's lead of 124 runs came about largely thanks to Sarel Erwee's 73 and a seventh-wicket flurry that came with a hint of 'Bazball' about it.

That is, of course, the nickname that has been afforded to England's vivacious batting approach since Ben Stokes and Brendon McCullum became the captain and coach partnership, and the ball repeatedly raced away to the boundary as South Africa showed off their own attacking flair.

On Friday, the hosts must step up, or they will soon slide 1-0 behind in this three-match series.

After Wednesday's play was curtailed by rain, South Africa should have seen the back of England anchorman Ollie Pope in the first over of Thursday's action, but Erwee made a laughably bad attempt to cling to an edge off Kagiso Rabada at first slip, juggling before the ball hit the deck.

Rabada had a stroke of luck in removing Pope soon afterwards, with an inside edge into his stumps accounting for the batsman, whose 73 provided the only substantial home resistance.

Broad also fell to Rabada, fooled by a slower ball, and after Jansen bowled Jack Leach, Rabada completed figures of 5-52 by pinning James Anderson lbw.

Captain Dean Elgar looked sharp with the bat at the outset of South Africa's reply and had reached 47 when Anderson struck in bizarre fashion, the ball trickling onto the stumps after hitting the Proteas skipper on the pad and arm.

Keegan Petersen and Aiden Markram fell for modest scores, the latter prised out by Leach after a snick to Ben Foakes from the first ball after tea.

Stokes then dismissed Erwee with a snorting delivery that might have hurt the batsman's chin had he not put the bat there in self-defence, the ball looping up for Foakes to take safely.

The home skipper had Rassie van der Dussen pegged lbw moments later, and Broad reached his Lord's wickets century when Foakes held on to remove Kyle Verreynne.

Stokes broke up the entertaining 72-run seventh-wicket alliance between Marco Jansen (41 not out) and Keshav Maharaj (41) as the light began to fade, but it was resoundingly South Africa's day.


Broad's 100 puts him in familiar company

Broad is the second member to enter the Lord's 100-wicket club, joining Anderson (117 wickets) in getting to three figures.

It was the sixth instance overall of a bowler taking 100 Test scalps at a single venue, with Sri Lanka great Muttiah Muralitharan responsible for three of those ton-up feats, with centuries of wickets in Kandy, Galle and Colombo.

Muralitharan's compatriot Rangana Herath also managed 100 Test wickets at Galle.

South Africa took control on a rain-affected opening day of the first Test against England as their pace attack fired at Lord's.

Just 32 overs were possible on Wednesday, yet there was enough time for the Proteas to reduce Ben Stokes' side to 116-6.

Anrich Nortje claimed 3-43 and the fit-again Kagiso Rabada took 2-36 in a ruthless display from the fast bowlers before the heavens opened in London.

Under-pressure opener Zak Crawley fell for only nine, with Alex Lees the first man to depart for five as Rabada struck twice early on his return from injury.

Joe Root was unable to provide any respite as he departed leg before to Marco Jansen (1-18) before Jonny Bairstow was clean bowled for a duck by Nortje.

Stokes (20) and Ollie Pope (61 not out) added 45 runs for the fifth wicket, but the captain was squared up by Nortje's final ball of the morning session and caught at third slip by Keegan Petersen.

Having lost five wickets prior to lunch, Ben Foakes became Nortje's third victim when he was cleaned up by a ripper and rain forced the end of play two deliveries later.

To cover the loss of overs on day one of the first Test in the three-match series, the remaining four days will now see 98 overs per day, with dry weather forecast.

 

England blown away by Proteas pace attack

The wicket of Foakes was Nortje's 50th in Test cricket in his 13th match, his raw pace proving far too hot for England's batters to handle.

Rabada was also hugely impressive a dominant display from the tourists and he is now five wickets away from 250 for South Africa.

Pope provides some hope

England have won their past four Tests, making this their best-such run since a five-match streak in 2018, but they already have their work cut out after a poor start at Lord's.

Pope provided the only positive with that his eighth Test half-century, though even then he had the fortune of being dropped by Peterson on 45.

There will be an increase in the number of men's international cricket for the 12 full ICC members in the next Future Tours Program (FTP) cycle.

Australia and India will play two five-match series in the 2023-2027 FTP cycle, with the last time they have contested that many matches in a series being back in 1992.

There will be 777 internationals during the next cycle - 173 Tests, 281 ODIs and 323 T20Is - compared to 694 in the current one.

England, Australia and India will play the greatest number of Tests, featuring in 22, 21 and 20 respectively.

The next cycle will include five major ICC events, starting with the Cricket World Cup in India next year.

ICC general manager of cricket Wasim Khan said: "I'd like to thank our members for the effort that has gone into creating this FTP for the next four years.

"We are incredibly lucky to have three vibrant formats of the game, with an outstanding programme of ICC global events and strong bilateral and domestic cricket and this FTP is designed to allow all cricket to flourish."

Ben Stokes promised England would not back down from their attacking approach against South Africa after rival captain Dean Elgar questioned the team's 'Bazball' tactics.

New England skipper Stokes has enjoyed four consecutive victories in the long format since taking over leadership duties from Joe Root, with three coming against New Zealand and one against India.

Now three Tests against South Africa await, with the first beginning at Lord's on Wednesday before further assignments at Old Trafford and The Oval.

Proteas skipper Elgar told Wisden Cricket Monthly he did not see "longevity in brave cricket", suggesting England could easily have been left "with egg on their faces" against New Zealand.

"Look, the opposition seem to be doing a lot of the talking about it at the moment," Stokes said on Tuesday.

"We don't really speak about it that much, we just concentrate on what we do. We've got a style of play, they've got a style of play, and at the end of the day it's bat against ball and whoever plays best over a Test match is more than likely to win."

England's approach has been nicknamed 'Bazball' because the lusty hitting of Jonny Bairstow has been so integral to the success. For each win in the current run, England have pulled off impressive fourth-innings chases, going almost gung-ho at times. Stokes and new head coach Brendon McCullum have encouraged the positivity.

Stokes hopes the England team "hasn't lost its venom", given it has been six weeks since the last Test, with record wicket-taker James Anderson turning 40 in the meantime.

Asked for how long Anderson might play on, Stokes said: "He's still 20 in my eyes, so 60 maybe, who knows."

With a hint of mischief in his eyes, Stokes responded to a question of whether he might also play on in Tests until the age of 40 by saying: "I'd absolutely love to."

Anderson's long-time pace partner Stuart Broad is one shy of becoming the second bowler to take 100 Test wickets at Lord's, with Anderson's 116 leading the way.

Elgar was not inclined to return to the topic of 'Bazball', saying: "Mudslinging is a thing of the past for me, and we're not going to go back and forth any more about that."


England chase four in a row against South Africa

England have won each of their last three multi-game men's Test series against South Africa, so they will hope Stokes' strong start as leader continues over the coming weeks. Root made 190 and Moeen Ali took 10 wickets in the match when England crushed South Africa by 211 runs at Lord's in July 2017, ending a six-match winless run (D2, L4) in games against the Proteas at the London ground.

Elgar looks to pace to pummel England

South Africa are unbeaten in four series (W3, D1) since a 2-0 defeat to Pakistan in February last year, so they are not lacking in confidence. Elgar is prepared for moments of England dominance and says South Africa can ride that out.

He said: "I know somewhere they're going to have periods in the game where they're going to be on top of us, no doubt, and we're going to have to find a way to adapt to that situation. I'd like to think from a bowling point of view, our bowlers are big, tall, fast and strong. We want it hard, we want it really tough, and hopefully the results go our way."

Former England captain Andrew Strauss has likened the puzzle of balancing Test and T20 cricket to the complications of "a Rubik's cube" but is optimistic both forms can coexist together.

The announced launch of new white-ball leagues, including the South Africa T20 League and International League T20 in the United Arab Emirates, has further outlined the dominance of the short-form game.

England are set to return to Test cricket this month with a three-game series against South Africa, but the long-term future of the sport's five-day format remains a pressing question.

Strauss acknowledges the challenges presented to balance the two forms are "complicated" within a fast-changing game, but still reasons there is a place for both providing officials do not bury "our heads in the sand".

"The cricket world around us is changing unbelievably quickly," Strauss was quoted by the Guardian. "Every day, every week, every month, we're seeing a new example of how that world is changing.

"We're having to ask ourselves in this country, where does our game fit into that? We [need to] make sure that we have incentives there for our players to play both red-and-white-ball cricket.

"Of course, the ECB have put a lot of time and attention and effort into [giving] the Hundred the potential to be a global short-form event that matches any of these other leagues.

"One of the things that we need to be conscious of in the game in this country is we have to be nimble and adaptable. We can't afford to be slow moving and have our heads in the sand.

"We need to continue promoting all the brilliant things cricket in this country offers players – we want to have a strong domestic game, and we want to make sure the players are playing the right balance of formats.

"I still maintain they can sit together comfortably, Test cricket and T20 cricket. But the challenge we have is, can we produce a manageable schedule that allows players to do both?

"That is really complicated. It's multi-dimensional. It's like a big Rubik's Cube."

Strauss will be on hand this Thursday for the second day of England's Test against South Africa, when Lord's will host its annual Red for Ruth day in memory of the ex-captain's late wife, who passed from lung cancer in 2018.

Ben Stokes' side are looking to maintain their rich vein of form, with the team unbeaten since he succeeding Joe Root as captain earlier this year.

Dean Elgar is determined to "throw a bit more respect into the badge" when South Africa face "beatable" England in a three-match Test series.

The Proteas have won three and drawn one of their past four series in the longest format, including a 2-1 victory over India.

South Africa are also sitting pretty at the top of the World Test Championship table and are third in the rankings ahead of an opening match against Ben Stokes' side that starts at Lord's on Wednesday.

England have enjoyed a dream start to a new era with Stokes as captain and Brendon McCullum head coach, whitewashing New Zealand 3-0 and beating India in a rearranged Test to draw the series 2-2.

Yet visiting captain Elgar is backing the tourists to maintain the momentum and bring England back down to earth.

The opening batter said: "I don't play to lose. I absolutely despise losing. And if we play an average brand [of cricket], or we're not putting our best foot forward, and we don't have results going our way, then that affects me quite a bit.

"This is a massive series for all of us. I think we've got 17 players and it's massive for all 17 of us to go out there, play a brand of cricket that appeals to South Africans and ultimately gives us the best chance of winning in England. We've seen it happen in the past before, so we know it can be done."

Elgar says South Africa will not cross the line with the verbals, but expects words to be exchanged in the middle.

"In the heat of battle, there's always something that comes out," he said. "Let's put it that way. I just want to play three really, really hard Test matches and go out there and put the badge on the line and throw a bit more respect into the badge."

He added: "We played against the best in the world last year [India, who were top of the rankings at the time], and I think we did things that we didn't quite expect to do at that time.

"So the standard that we've set and the bar that we've raised since last year has happened pretty naturally just out of us doing good things on the field again.

"It's gonna be a tough series, no doubt. They are a proud cricketing nation and I respect that. But I know they are definitely beatable. I didn't come here to play second fiddle. I came here to win a series."

South Africa paceman Duanne Olivier has been ruled out of the Test series against England due to a hip injury.

The quick sustained a grade two right hip flexor muscle tear during the Proteas' crushing innings-and-56-run defeat to the England Lions at Canterbury.

South Africa have not called up a replacement ahead of a three-match series that starts at Lord's on Wednesday.

"Duanne presented with significant discomfort involving his right hip flexor muscle at the close of play on day three of the four-day tour match," team doctor Hashendra Ramjee said.

"After clinical assessment, he was referred for an MRI scan which revealed a grade two tear involving the right pectineus muscle.

"Due to the extent of the injury, he has been ruled out of the three-match Test series against England and will return home where he will commence his rehabilitation with the Gauteng Central Lions medical team."

The tourists also have a doubt over fellow quick Kagiso Rabada, who has been sidelined by an ankle injury.

They are not short of pace options, though, with Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen, Glenton Stuurman and Lutho Sipamla in the squad.

Former New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor has revealed he experienced racism during his career in his home country, from both team-mates and officials.

The middle-order right-hander, who hung up his gloves at the start of this year, is the all-time record run scorer in Test and ODI cricket for New Zealand and also the nation's most-capped player across all formats with 450 appearances to his name.

But now Taylor, who is of Samoan heritage, has spoken out on his experiences with racist "banter" in the locker room and casual racism from some Black Caps officials.

"Cricket in New Zealand is a pretty white sport," the 38-year-old has written in his autobiography, Black & White. "For much of my career I've been an anomaly, a brown face in a vanilla line-up.

"That has its challenges, many of which aren't readily apparent to your team-mates or the cricketing public. In many ways dressing-room banter is the barometer.

"A teammate used to tell me, 'You're half a good guy, Ross, but which half is good? You don't know what I'm referring to.' I was pretty sure I did.

"In all probability a [white New Zealander] listening to those sorts of comments would think, 'Oh, that's OK, it's just a bit of banter'.

"But he's hearing it as white person and it's not directed at people like him. So there's no pushback; no one corrects them – then the onus falls on the targets.

"You wonder if you should pull them up but worry that you'll create a bigger problem or be accused of playing the race card by inflating harmless banter into racism. It's easier to develop a thick skin and let it slide."

A spokesperson for New Zealand cricket said the organisation "deplores racism" in a statement to the New Zealand Herald, adding: "We'll definitely reach out to Ross to discuss the matter."

England international Moeen Ali does not believe the hectic cricket schedule is sustainable.

Moeen, who has previously filled in as England's captain in T20Is and was named as vice-captain for the tour of West Indies earlier this year, retired from Test cricket in 2021.

The 35-year-old wanted to focus on the limited-overs formats, and more players seem to be faced with the decision of sacrificing one for the other.

In part, this has been put down to the tight and congested nature of the cricketing calendar, with tours scheduled between high-profile tournaments such as the Indian Premier League, the Big Bash League and, in England, The Hundred. There is also the small matter of another T20 World Cup coming up later this year in Australia.

England's new Test captain Ben Stokes has made a similar decision, giving up white-ball cricket to focus on the long format, while he skipped The Hundred alongside team-mate Jonny Bairstow this year.

"At the moment it's not sustainable," Moeen told reporters when asked about his concerns over the schedule.

Moeen also believes that 50-over matches are most vulnerable.

"Something has to be done because I fear losing the 50-over format in a couple of years because it's almost like the long, boring one," said the all-rounder, who is the captain of Birmingham Phoenix in The Hundred.

"There's no importance given to it at the moment.

"International cricket in all three formats is by far the best cricket to play, but I do worry there are so many tournaments out there that players are retiring more now, and you'll see more retiring soon, because of overlapping schedules."

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