Kumar Sangakkara has expressed his solidarity towards England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who recently took an indefinite break from cricket in order to prioritise his mental health. Sangakkara said many athletes in these COVID-19 times have taken tough decisions after their mind feels the pressure.
On Friday, England and Wales Cricket (ECB) announced that Stokes will prioritise his mental wellbeing and as a measure, the all-rounder will take an indefinite break from all cricket with an immediate effect.
The England all-rounder has received solidarity after his decision was publicised and many people from the cricket fraternity have wished a speedy recovery to the Canterbury-born cricketer. Former Sri Lanka skipper Kumar Sangakkara was amongst the ones who acknowledged the pain Stokes must be going through spending time away from home in various COVID-19 bubbles.
“It must be a very, very tough time for Ben and his family. It won’t be a decision made easily but (it) brings into focus the level elite players play at — your coping mechanism can only deal with so much,” Sangakkara told Sky Sports.
“A lot of time away from home, in bubbles, restrictions in terms of freedom of movement, then the added pressures of performing at such a high level in the public eye,” he added.
Many athletes in different sports across the globe have faced a similar kind of pressure, Stokes is going through. Japan’s tennis superstar Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open followed by missing the Wimbledon. United States’ artistic gymnast Simone Biles was the recent example to withdraw her name from events in Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Sangakkara, who himself played international cricket for 15 years, admitted that players suffer through different levels of pressure during the COVID-19 time and that forces them to take tough calls in their careers.
“We’ve had a host of elite athletes who’ve spoken about mental wellbeing and the effects of Covid and the pressure around it, and of course pressure in the limelight, that have led to them making some very tough decisions,” Sangakkara said.
Stokes played a vital role in helping England win the ICC 2019 World Cup where he scored 465 runs with the help of five fifties and also picked seven wickets in the tournament. Months after lifting the World Cup, Stokes played a marvellous knock of 135* against Australia in the Headingley Test, where he got England past the finishing line to chase 359.
Stokes made his last international appearance against Pakistan in ODIs, where he captained an inexperienced England team to a 3-0 whitewash over Pakistan when the main squad was isolated after few team members contracted COVID-19.