Joe Root has praised England captain Ben Stokes for addressing his mental health struggles in a new documentary, saluting his “great bravery”.
Root joined the rest of the Test squad at a London screening of ‘Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes’, a film which shows their skipper tackling the toughest moments of his career.
As well as confronting his 2017 arrest and eventual acquittal on charges of affray and the loss of his father to brain cancer, Stokes is strikingly open about the crushing anxiety and panic attacks which forced him to take a break from the game last summer.
During his own time as skipper, Root took to referring to Stokes as a ‘superhero’ for his outstanding match-winning abilities, but believes his decision to open himself to the public during his lowest ebbs only serves to underline his strength.
“I think it’s exactly what you’ve come to see from Ben as a leader. I think it shows great courage, great bravery to come out and speak openly about that stuff and some the struggles he has personally been through,” Root said.
“We were all there with him going through it … it’s not easy to see a close friend and teammate like that but look at him now.
“It’s great to have him leading this team and making Test cricket so enjoyable to play and to watch.”
Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum were aligned in their post-match analysis of last week’s innings defeat to South Africa at Lord’s, insisting it was no cause to doubt the blueprint which allowed them to record four thrilling victories earlier in the summer.
Far from retreating into a more cautious game plan, both men suggested they would be examining if there were times the team could have played more aggressively against the Proteas.
And Root, who banked a rare double failure in that match, is happy to follow their lead.
“Even though the result didn’t necessarily go how we wanted it to and we didn’t play as well as we could, that doesn’t change anything,” he said. “That’s been made very clear to the group.
“If anything, it’s an opportunity for us to come out and play with more intent. It’s just another opportunity to get back to how well we were playing in those first four Test matches.
“It’s about really committing to how we want to go about things and having full trust and belief in it. It’s a great chance to get our teeth into it this week and show people what we can do.”