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Ben Foakes on India v England, bio-bubbles and ‘remarkable’ Joe Root

Ben Foakes spoke exclusively to ahead of England’s Test series in England (Picture: ECB)

Ben Foakes hasn’t found the relentless and repetitive bio-secure bubbles as taxing as some of his international team-mates, but the England wicketkeeper-batsman is ready to finally be put to use against India.

Few players have spent more time in bubbles over the past 12 months without playing a match than Foakes, whose first stint during the English summer lasted almost two months.

His services were not required during the series wins over West Indies and Pakistan and Foakes also had to play the waiting game during the recent trip to Sri Lanka.

Having arrived in India with his England team-mates last week, Foakes could be set for another two-month stint in the bubble, although at least this time it appears as though he will finally add to his five Test appearances.

With Jos Buttler going home after the first Test and Jonny Bairstow missing the first half of the tour, Foakes looks set to keep wicket for England in the second match and will hope to retain his place for the remainder of the series.

Given it’s been over two years since he last played for England – and that he’s spent so long in various bubbles – a recall to the Test team should be seen, if nothing else, as just reward for his patience.

Asked how he has coped with bubble life, Foakes told ‘I haven’t minded it too much. I’m happy to chill in my own space so from that point of view, I can cope with this stuff pretty well.

Foakes looks set to finally get another chance to play for England (Picture: ECB)

‘The one tricky thing with all this is you have those moments when you think you’re coping with it well, then later down the line it may get on top of you. So that’s one thing you need to look out for, and that’s why the ECB are sending people back for some phases, to make sure it doesn’t build too much.’

As a professional cricketer being paid to travel the world, Foakes knows he is in a privileged position and says the situation at home – with the UK going through another full lockdown to mitigate the effects of coronavirus – is ‘worse’ than on tour.

But players in bubbles are still cut off from their family and friends entirely and their freedoms are restricted to an even greater extent than the general public.

Many players said the claustrophobia and boredom was particularly bad during the English summer when the squads were based at the grounds, often with rooms overlooking the pitches.

Surrey star Foakes has experienced bubble life for several months (Picture: Getty)

‘I know a few of the guys struggled with that,’ Foakes said. ‘Because I didn’t play I didn’t have the issue of not feeling like you can’t get away from cricket.

‘But it can be hard when you can’t not look at a cricket ground for a month. It’s quite nice having that distance away from the ground and being able to separate yourself a little bit.

‘Since we’ve been away, the hotels have been lovely and the hospitality in these countries is so good. I think already you can see that the more the ECB understand the bubbles, the better they are going to put it on for you, which does take some of the stress away.

‘We’re very lucky and we know that, but it is just quite mundane basically. You come back, eat the same sort of food, chill and go to bed. Once the game starts, that’s all you would do anyway, but the time off is different.’

So how have Foakes and his England team-mates passed the time?

‘We’ve had days in quarantine when you can’t leave your hotel room so you’re doing anything to kill a bit of time,’ the Surrey star said.

‘You try to work out but that’s obviously not easy in a bedroom. There’s a bit of PlayStation, I think a few of the lads have just started playing to pass the time. I’m into some American sports too so I’ve been watching plenty of that.’

Bio-bubbles, quarantine periods and social-distancing have had a huge effect on preparation for elite sport. England will have had just three days of full practice before the first India Test, while warm-up matches – except intra-squad ones – are currently not viable.

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Foakes has not batted in a competitive match since October and admits preparation is not ideal as he bids to revive his Test career against one of the best teams in the world.

He said: ‘It’s difficult in the current climate to get everything you want in terms of preparation. It’s almost like you have to accept in your mind that any preparation you do get is enough. I haven’t played much cricket, especially red-ball cricket, in the last 12 months.

‘From a match point of view I haven’t had as much cricket as I would like but with everything that’s happened, that’s just the way it is. I’m just trying to be mentally prepared and make sure my game feels good in the nets to then hopefully take the chance if it comes.’

For England to beat India, captain Joe Root will surely need to have a productive series. The 33-year-old was brilliant in Sri Lanka – averaging more than 100 after scoring a double century in the first Test and 186 in the second – and Foakes said it was ‘awesome to watch’.

Joe Root preparing for the first Test against India (Picture: ECB)

‘It was remarkable, really. They were two of the best innings I’ve ever seen,’ he added.

‘The wickets were obviously spinning and it looked really hard work. But Joe’s one of those guys who you watch and think he’s just got in and you look up and he’s already on 30 because he’s so good at manipulating the ball and the strike.

‘The way he played different situations, played the sweep and just always put pressure on the bowlers, but doing it in a safe way for him, was quite awesome to watch and hopefully something I can learn from.’

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