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‘I didn’t even want to see cricket’ – Foakes recalls agony of mental burnout

Foakes burnout
by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

England wicketkeeper Ben Foakes has opened up about the mental burnout he went through for as long as three years, before a much-needed break and subsequent comeback to the national side helped him regain his enthusiasm for the sport.

Foakes returned to the England Test squad for their Sri Lanka tour – it got cancelled due to Covid-19 – after having scored a century on debut against the same opposition 18 months before. However, the path that followed his fruitful maiden knock turned out to be a tricky one as Foakes had to deal with the pressure of living up to expectations, even as he got the boot just four Tests later.

‘I’ve been getting to the start of each season over the last three years thinking, “How am I going to get through this?” Foakes told Sportsmail. “When you’re on central contracts you know when you’re going to have a break, but I was in the middle where I was playing for Surrey in all formats and then going on tour with England or the Lions.

“If you are in an England squad but don’t play, you can get sent to a Lions tour in the middle. It all built up to the point where I was just trying to get through every game and three years was a long cycle to be in that mindset.”

With the Jonny Bairstow-Jos Buttler duo making it difficult for any other wicketkeeper to claim a spot, Foakes was left ruing when he was dropped in the Caribbean, in early 2019, having aggregated 55 runs in four innings on that tour.

‘Finally getting into the England side, doing quite well and going out of it again added to my confusion and the mental pressures of it,” said Foakes. “I did feel it was harsh and I was frustrated. Before I played for England that was my drive, my one goal, and when I was struggling to get through games that kept me going.

Then not knowing where I stood with England played a part in adding to that mental burnout. It was tough. I just got away completely because I’d reached the stage where I didn’t even want to see cricket,” Foakes said.”

The runs dried up for Surrey as well, piling on to the agony. He took the hard decision of opting out of a Lions tour to Australia, and finally managed a breather.

“A couple of months off was exactly what I needed, because I hadn’t had more than a 10-day break for years, and however much you love the game, it can get on top of you,” said Foakes. “It’s helped me get that fire back. Just having a bit of time away from the game reignited that passion and made me get my head clear.”

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