Players Free to Quit Tour if they are Down: England skipper Root

London, Jan 1 (AFP/APP): England captain Joe Root says any of the players on the forthcoming tour of Sri Lanka who feel they are not in the right place mentally are free to return home.

The touring party, including for the first time a psychologist, leave for Sri Lanka on Saturday and due to the coronavirus pandemic will be in a two-week bubble in Hambantota ahead of the two Tests in Galle. The Sri Lanka leg of the tour — they go to India afterwards — was postponed last March due to the pandemic and their recent visit to South Africa ended prematurely after a handful of positive cases at the team hotel.

Touring and being away from family for long stretches has taxed players in the past but the squad have the added pressure of living in a bio-secure bubble. Head coach Chris Silverwood has for the first time decided to bring on the tour a psychologist, James Bickley. “There’s going to be a little bit of extra support for the players in terms of a psychologist on the ground at all times making sure there’s someone to speak to,” said Root at his pre-tour press conference.

“Everyone is very aware that if at any stage it becomes too much they are entitled to get out and that’s an important thing to remember. “It’s important they can say if they don’t feel they’re in the right space physically or mentally to go out and represent their country.”

Bubble life

Root, who turned 30 on Wednesday and joked he is “waiting for his hair to fall out”, said his team-mates should not hide away if they are feeling blue. “As players you have a responsibility to speak up, not just use the staff but the other guys around you as well,” he said. “As captain that’s a big part of my role to make sure people are comfortable in the environment, in a position to be at the top of their game and play Test cricket to the best of their ability. “It’s a huge part of the role anyway but it’s certainly heightened more in times like these.”

Root said the players were learning all the time how to operate under the strict restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic. “Unfortunately the last two tours haven’t been able to be fulfilled as we would like but there is more information now and each time we go away we learn more,” he said.

“Throughout the summer we learned a huge amount on bubble life, how we need to do things to make sure everyone is as safe as possible.” Root said that even if some of the players do test positive on tour they may be able to play on even without them. “Wherever we are going to be we are going to be in contact with it in some way shape or form,” he said.

“If you look around the rest of the world other teams, when they have travelled, have had to deal with cases on tour and that might be the case for us. “We’ll have to manage as best we can. “South Africa was a unique situation and this will be different again. “We are fully aware of what we are going into.”

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