England captain Joe Root has urged players, including himself, to reveal if they are struggling with the amount of international cricket this winter and need a break.
England play six Tests in the subcontinent between Thursday and early March, with two games in Sri Lanka – which you can watch live on Sky Sports – and then four in India.
Speaking to Sky Sports’ Michael Atherton, Root says even he must speak up if the burdens become too high during a congested spell of action while staying in bio-secure bubbles.
Players will have the additional support of a clinical psychologist in Sri Lanka, with Dr James Bickley of the Changing Minds organisation joining head coach Chris Silverwood’s backroom team.
Sri Lanka vs England
January 14, 2021, 4:00am
Root said: “We have spoken a lot as a group about the mental and physical demands that this year, and this winter, in particular, will have.
“If at any stage it becomes too much you have to be honest enough to put your hands up and that applies to me as captain as well. It comes down to the honesty of the individual.
“It’s not them saying they are not up for the challenge, it’s just for the betterment of the team and to give ourselves the best chance of winning, that it is the right thing to do. If that is the case then we will certainly do that.
“I am desperate for us to win games of cricket and I want to be involved and playing but if it’s not the right thing to do I will certainly try to make sure I make the right choice.”
On England’s use of a psychologist to deal with any anxiety in the group while touring during a pandemic, Root added: “When you are going from hotel to ground constantly it can be a little bit overwhelming – you can get absorbed and not find a way to get away from the game.
“Having someone to help manage that and give you processes to deal with that better is really important. Not everyone will use him the same amount, and that’s absolutely fine, but it’s really important for the guys to know someone is there to aid what is a really difficult time to tour.”
England are due to play 17 Tests this year – 18 if they reach the World Test Championship final – culminating in an Ashes tour.
Root says rest and rotation in the squad will be crucial as he looks to have a “robust” team to take on Australia.
All-rounder Ben Stokes and fast bowler Jofra Archer have been given a breather for the series in Sri Lanka, while national selector Ed Smith has intimated wicketkeeper Jos Buttler will get some time off during the four-Test assignment in India that follows.
Root said: “It is going to be a really big year for everyone involved in the Test squads – and very different as Covid has made a big impact, especially with touring.
“A few guys have had to be rested for this series and that will be the same in India with the amount of games we have got in a short space of time.
“Rest and rotation is going to be a really important part in building towards the backend of the year with an Ashes coming up.
“We have to look after right now and make sure we get a win out in Sri Lanka and in India but also look at what is coming further down the line.
“We have put a lot of planning into this winter and but also looked a long way ahead as well and tried to make sure when that comes around we have a really robust team that is fit and ready to perform in those conditions.”
England swept Sri Lanka 3-0 in late 2018 as Root secured his first win away from home as Test captain – but the side have not been victorious in India since 2012 or in Australia since 2010/11.
Root says the coronavirus pandemic will make changing that run more difficult but is confident he has the armoury in his squad to challenge Virat Kohli and Tim Paine’s men respectively in their own conditions.
The 30-year-old added: “I think we are going to have to play really well. On top of it being difficult to win away anyway, there are a number of factors for touring teams that seem to make things a little bit harder.
“Whether that’s the demands of the game and the quarantines or whether the short lead up to Tests brings a bit more of an injury risk. We have to be really smart in managing our players, our bowlers in particular.
“Factoring that in does make things trickier than normal but the way we have progressed in the last year or so I believe we are on an upward curve and these are going to be great challenges for us.
“I am really excited for us to test ourselves against two of the best sides in world cricket. I am really confident we can hopefully do something really special.”
Hear more from Root during day one of the first Test between Sri Lanka and England, which is live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 4am on Thursday. Our extended interview with the England captain will run at the lunch break from approximately 6.30am.
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