In recent days, there have been a slew of high profile athletes who have taken a step back from their award-winning careers to focus on mental health. Earlier in June, top ranked tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open to tend to her mental health. Then came legendary US Gymnast Simone Biles' withdrawal from several Olympic finals. Now, England cricketer Ben Stokes has taken an indefinite break from the game to "prioritise his mental wellbeing".
While India and England are set to lock horns in the Test series from August 4 in Nottingham, the star all-rounder had withdrawn from the upcoming matches. But while Stokes' withdrawal is a major blow for England, netizens have come together with an outpouring of support over the decision.
"Best wishes to Ben Stokes. I hope his mental health issues get sorted out as quickly as possible and without any criticism," read one tweet.
"Ben Stokes withdrawing from the test series is big news. Virtually impossible to replace. So many elite sportspeople getting affected," lamented Indian sports commentator Harsha Bhogle.
And while there were of course a few posts determined to dismiss mental health concerns as being inconsequential, others on Twitter were quick to take then down with a flurry of counter-points.
"You do not understand mental health. Please seek to learn more before commenting. There are a lot of resources online to help with this. A broken bone is a broken bone regardless of who you are/what you do/how much money you have This is no different Mental health is health," read one such irate response.
According to a statement by the England and Wales Cricket Board, the break will also serve to rest Stokes' left index finger, "which has not fully healed since his return to competitive cricket earlier this month".
In an era of COVID-19 bio-bubbles and isolation away from their families, the mental health of cricketers has become a topic of constant discussion. 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".
(with inputs from agencies)