England v India: Joe Root says 'I just want my friend to be OK' after Ben Stokes takes break

Ben Stokes (left), has played 69 Tests with Joe Root (right).England v India, the first LV= Insurance Test Date: 4-8 Aug Time: 11:00 BST. Coverage: Highlights, Test Match Special Commentary and Text coverage on BBC Sport's website and app. Today at the Test at 19.00 BST on BBC TwoEngland Test captain Joe Root said that he just wanted his friend to be okay after Ben Stokes took a long break from cricket because of mental health issues.Stokes, the 30-year-old all-rounder, withdrew Saturday from the squad to play in the five-Test series against India. It starts Wednesday at Trent Bridge.Root said that Root is "one of my closest friends" in the game to BBC Sport."I hope he can get back to Ben Stokes again. That's what we all want."Root said: "As long I've known Ben he puts everybody else first. And now, it is my chance to put myself first.He has my complete support, and the support of our entire team. He should take as much time as he needs."This is a chance to be with his family, and to give himself the chance to feel like Ben Stokes at his best."From a cricketing perspective, we know how great that is. From a personal standpoint, he's one the best blokes I have ever played cricket with."After England's return to international cricket last July following the outbreak of coronavirus, the players spent a lot of time in bio-secure bubbles that allowed them limited movement between matches.Root spoke to Stokes just before his withdrawal and said that it was important that they continue talking about mental health.Root stated that players are well aware of the difficulties involved in playing for long periods. "It's not sustainable," Root stated."It is really important that all our players are looked after, so guys don't burn out or struggle in other areas."Vice-captain Stokes averages 37.04 with bat and 31.38 using the ball in 71 Tests. He is second in International Cricket Council Test all rounder rankings, behind West Indies' Jason Holder.Stokes was injured in June's Test series loss to New Zealand. However, he returned to the captain's chair to lead England to a 3-0 win over Pakistan.Root acknowledged that Stokes' absence "doesn't make it difficult", but he said: "It doesn’t mean we can’t continue and have a very positive start to this series."There have been many times when we were able to win without Ben."I feel confident playing at home. There are some amazing cricketers in our team.After being struck on the helmet on Monday while batting in the nets, Mayank Agarwal, India's opener, has been ruled out from the first Test.Prithvi Shaw could be Rohit Sharma's partner in the opening."No decision yet on Ashes Tour"England's cricketers have been in talks with the England and Wales Cricket Board and the Professional Cricketers Association (PCA) about this winter's Ashes tour to Australia. Some players are considering withdrawing if they cannot travel with their families to Australia.Australia has some of most stringent Covid-19 protocols. Players who participate in the T20 World Cup and the Ashes will be away for up to four months.Root stated that none of the Ashes players had decided whether they would pull out.He said, "Every single player as an infant, they want Australia; they wish to win the Ashes; and they want the urn out to lift it up.""We all want to do that, but it's not clear at what price or in what environment. 18 months of living in bubbled environments has made us feel desperate."We must work closely with the ECB to be very aware where we are at and have honest conversations with Cricket Australia."Once we have a clear picture of where we are and what the future will look like, we can make a decision. We will have to wait and see what happens over the next few weeks.