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India v England: Ben Foakes defends rotation after Vaughan, Pietersen criticism

Ben Foakes ‘understands’ and ‘agrees’ with England’s decision to rest players (Picture: Getty)

Ben Foakes says he ‘understands’ and ‘agrees’ with England’s decision to rest players during their Test series against India, with Jonny Bairstow, Sam Curran and Chris Woakes all ruled out of the first two matches.

With England playing 17 Tests in 2021 and taking part in the T20 World Cup, periods of rest for players – particularly those playing all formats – will be necessary as the ECB look to avoid physical and mental burnout.

The timing of such breaks has already proved controversial, however, with former captains Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen criticising England after they confirmed Bairstow, Curran and Woakes would not be involved in the first two Tests against India.

Pietersen accused England of ‘disrespecting’ India with their squad announcement, while Vaughan said it was ‘mad’ that Bairstow would not play in the series opener in Chennai after impressing in Sri Lanka.

But Foakes – who looks set to keep wicket for England in the second Test in India, when Jos Buttler returns home – insists it is important for players to be given time outside of the bio-bubbles.

Asked if he agrees with the ECB’s rotation policy, Foakes told ‘Yeah, absolutely. Because I’m just involved in the red-ball stuff for England, I get to go home and spend some time with family and live slightly more freely, go for walks or whatever.

Jonny Bairstow will miss the first two India Tests (Picture: Getty)

‘The idea of staying in the bubble during the time I’m able to go away would be difficult. I’m not sure many people could handle that length of time in a bubble so I completely understand and agree with it.

‘For performance as well, if you’re in a negative headspace it can be tricky to perform, so I think it’s a really good option.’

If Foakes plays against India, it will be his first England appearance for over two years. The wicketkeeper-batsman starred in his first Test series, scoring a century, a fifty and impressing with the gloves as Joe Root’s side beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in 2018.

He failed to replicate those performance in West Indies in early 2019 but can still feel aggrieved not to have been given more of an opportunity to nail down a place in the Test team.

Foakes scored a century and a fifty in England’s series win in Sri Lanka in 2018 (Picture: Getty)

Another chance appears to be on the horizon, however, and Foakes says he will view a recall to the side as a ‘great opportunity’, even though there are few more daunting tasks than a tour to India.

‘I assume I’ll keep but you don’t want to take anything for granted,’ Foakes, 27, added. ‘With Jos and Jonny going home I expect to, but we’ve not really spoke about that yet.

‘It’s just about trying to get myself ready for each game. Even in Sri Lanka, we didn’t have that many batters out there so there was a chance I could play if anyone got ill or injured, so I was trying to focus on the next game.

‘When Jos does go home, I’ll try to be ready for that. I’ll see it as a great opportunity if I do play.’

While England have lost wicketkeeper-batsman Bairstow, all-rounder Curran and fast bowler Wood for the start of the India series, they will be buoyed by the return of Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Rory Burns.

Stokes and Archer were both rested for the recent Sri Lanka series – which England won 2-0 – while Burns was on paternity leave.

Foakes said: ‘We haven’t seen them yet because we’re all in quarantine but three guys like that coming in – given how good they are on and off the park – is always great. Hopefully they can all go really well.’

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