New Delhi | Jagran Sports Desk: Ahead of the start of the Test series between England and India, English all-rounder Ben Stokes on Friday announced that he will take an indefinite break from all forms of cricket with immediate effect to focus on his mental health. India and England will lock horns in the Test series from August 4 in Nottingham.

Confirming the development, ECB said Stokes has withdrawn from England's Test squad for the Test series against India to prioritise his mental well-being and to rest his left index finger, which has not fully healed since his return to competitive cricket earlier this month. "The ECB fully supports Ben's decision, and we will continue to help him during this period away from the game," ECB said in a statement.

Managing Director of England Men's Cricket, Ashley Giles, said, "Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and wellbeing."Our primary focus has always been and will continue to be the mental health and welfare of all of our people. The demands on our athletes to prepare and play elite sport are relentless in a typical environment, but the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded this.

"Spending significant amounts of time away from family, with minimal freedoms, is extremely challenging. The cumulative effect of operating almost continuously in these environments over the last 16 months has had a major impact on everyone's wellbeing.""Ben will be given as long as he needs, and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future," he added.

Craig Overton has replaced Stokes in the England squad for the India series. Stokes' withdrawal is a major blow to England, who lost to New Zealand at home last month after losing the away series in India in February-March.

The mental health of cricketers in COVID times has become a topic of constant discussion with the players having to play in bio-bubbles for months. Ahead of the World Test Championship final against New Zealand last month, India skipper Virat Kohli had made it clear that mental health management will become a norm if cricket is continued to be played in bio-bubbles with players requiring breaks to "disconnect from the game".

Australian all-rounder Glenn Maxwell is another notable name who has spoken extensively about the need to address mental health issues, having taken a break himself from the game in 2019.

Posted By: Talibuddin Khan