Leach says England back Stokes over mental health break

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Ben Stokes (right) and Jack Leach steered England to a famous victory over Australia at Headingley in 2019
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England spinner Jack Leach insisted on Saturday the whole squad are behind teammate Ben Stokes after it was announced the all-rounder would take an "indefinite break from all cricket".

Stokes, the latest high-profile sports star to step away from the pressure of international competition, withdrew on Friday from England's squad ahead of a five-match series against India starting at Trent Bridge next week.

The England and Wales Cricket Board said the 30-year-old World Cup winner was also stepping aside to rest his left index finger.

"All the lads are behind Ben and supporting him where we can," said Leach who starred with Stokes in a memorable Ashes win at Headingley in 2019.

"He has shown courage and bravery to prioritise his mental health. He is a focal part of our team and we will miss him.

"His priority is to take some time out from the game to get better. We can't wait to welcome him back in the near future and winning games of cricket for England."

Stokes, whose father Ged died in December, rushed back from injury to lead England in a one-day international series against Pakistan earlier this month after all those originally selected were ruled out by a coronavirus outbreak within the hosts' camp.

Somerset's Craig Overton has replaced the Durham all-rounder, with no timeframe put on his potential return.

Stokes' decision came just days after American superstar gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of two events at the Tokyo Olympics to also protect her mental health.

The 24-year-old's struggles followed those of Japanese tennis star Naomi Osaka, another face of the Games who lost in the third round on her return from a mental health break, having withdrawn from the French Open and skipped Wimbledon saying she had been battling depression and anxiety.


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