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Root praises honesty of ‘brave’ captain Stokes

Ben Stokes took over from Joe Root as England Test captain at the beginning of the summer

Joe Root has praised “brave” England captain Ben Stokes for speaking about his struggles with his mental health.

In a new documentary, Stokes reveals he feared he might not play cricket again when he took a break from the sport in the summer of 2021.

“It’s quite powerful for people to see sometimes it’s OK not to be OK,” Root told BBC Sport.

“It shows great leadership to put yourself out there and express some of the difficulties he’s gone through.”

Root, Stokes’ predecessor as England Test captain, added: “It’s very brave to lay himself as bare as he has done.

“It’s very powerful for anyone watching to see someone who at times looks superhuman and can do things that other players can’t do.”

Stokes, 31, took a five-month break from cricket last year in order to prioritise his mental health and recover from a broken finger.

Four years earlier, the all-rounder spent time out of the England team following an incident outside a Bristol nightclub which led to a charge of affray. He was acquitted in 2018.

He spent another spell away from international cricket in 2020 to be with his ill father Ged, who passed away in December of that year.

In a documentary that will air on Amazon Prime from Friday, Stokes reveals he has suffered panic attacks and speaks about his battle with periods of poor mental health.

“You forget how much he has been through in such a short space of time,” said batter Root, who was England captain on each occasion Stokes took a break from cricket.

“Hopefully if there are people out there struggling or finding things difficult, they can gain the courage to ask for that help.”

Ben Stokes & Joe Root
Joe Root consoles Ben Stokes at the end of the 2016 T20 World Cup final

Root and Stokes met as teenagers and have been at the heart of the England team for most of the past decade.

They were together as youngsters on the 2013-14 Ashes tour that saw the disintegration of a formidable England side, then were in the team that lost the 2016 T20 World Cup final – Root was one of the first to comfort Stokes after he was hit for four consecutive sixes in the last over of the match.

The pair were again part of the team that won the 2019 World Cup, while Stokes served as Root’s vice-captain, a position he held when he almost single-handedly won a famous Ashes Test at Headingley in the same year.

“I’m very fortunate that I have experienced them with one of our greatest every players and a good mate of mine,” said 31-year-old Root.

“You enjoy the good moments and help each other through the difficult times as well. That’s one of the most powerful things about sport. You can create those kinds of relationships, memories and experiences.”

England meet South Africa in the second Test at Old Trafford on Thursday after losing the first by an innings inside three days at Lord’s.

That defeat extended a two-year run of England failing to win a Test in which Root has not made a half-century.

The last time they won without him reaching 50 in either innings was against Pakistan on this ground in the summer of 2020.

“It doesn’t really affect the way I’m going to practise or how I’m going to walk into the game,” said Root, the world’s number one Test batter.

“If that was to happen again it’s a great opportunity for someone else to stand up and make that big contribution.”

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