England Test captain Ben Stokes has revealed how he was crippled by panic attacks during a mental health crisis that almost ended his career.
The new skipper has opened up on the challenges he’s faced, including the death of his father, assault charges following an altercation in Bristol and relentless pressure to perform.
The England and Durham all-rounder will be featured in an Amazon Prime Video documentary, with interviews conducted by the award-winning director and cricket-lover Sam Mendes.
England Test captain Ben Stokes opens up about his mental health in a new Prime Video documentary
In the film, England bowler, Stuart Broad reveals he feared Stokes would never play again after his team mate suffered a mental health crisis, which led to him taking a break from the game in July 2021.
‘I never thought that I would feel like I do now,’ Stokes tells Mendes in an interview conducted during the cricketer’s recovery, which is featured in a trailer for the film, released today. ‘My anxiety has gone through the roof. You are sat on the toilet in your hotel room and you are having a massive panic attack.’
The film crew captured Stokes’ most personal and challenging moments, including his final visit to see his terminally ill father, Ged, in New Zealand. His dad died in December 2020 from brain cancer.
Stokes has inherited captaincy from Joe Root, with England having just one win in 17 matches
Ged was also interviewed for the documentary in which he explains that his illness means ‘you just don’t know whether you are going to be the same person when you wake up the next day’.
England staff reveal how the cricketer, was in tears, he could not get his words out, and he was struggling for breath before he took a mental health break from the game, having just made his 100th ODI appearance for his country.
‘I could have seen him never playing again,’ said Broad, who has 537 Test wickets from 152 matches.
And England fast bowler Jofra Archer adds: ‘That experience would have broken lesser mortals.’
The film follows the highs and lows of Stokes’ career, including the death of his father, Ged
Among the low points of Stokes’ extraordinary career was his arrest after a late-night incident in Bristol in September 2017. He went on to miss an Ashes tour that winter before being cleared on a charge of affray.
But the documentary will also chart the highs of Stokes’ life as a cricketer, including his heroic, match-winning performance in the 2019 Cricket World Cup, in which he scored 84, before batting in the tie-breaking super-over.
The film also includes Stokes’ innings in the third Test at Headingley of the Ashes series against Australia in 2019, which is widely considered to be one of the greatest of all time.
And it features some of the game’s greats including the late Shane Warne and former England captain, Joe Root.
‘Fans love match winners,’ declares Warne, who died in March, aged 52. ‘He steams in.’
Shane Warne features in the film about Stokes, declaring ‘fans love match winners’
‘Not many people get to see the best side of him, but I am just very grateful that I have,’ adds Root, who preceded Stokes as the country’s Test skipper, and is a great friend of Stokes.
In a touching scene, Stokes’ children declare their dad is ‘the best cricketer alive’.
Stokes was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, before moving to England at the age of 12, growing up in Cockermouth in Cumbria.
The access-all-areas film follows Stokes back to his childhood, when teammates of the young cricketer nicknamed him ‘beast’ for his never-say-die attitude. And in one clip, as the cameras follow him around Cockermouth, he remarks: ‘I had a fight with him when I was growing up.’
Stokes took a mental health break from the game last summer, but last month he was named England captain and he told Mendes he is now better equipped to deal with the pressures he faces.
In a moving clip, Stokes’ children declare that their dad is ‘the best cricketer alive!’
‘I have gone through my career fearing failure,’ he says. ‘Rather than fearing failure… embrace it.’
Mendes, who has won a hatful of awards for a string of blockbuster movies, including, American Beauty, Skyfall, Spectre and 1917, was surprised at how open Stokes was during the three interviews he conducted with him.
‘When they asked me to be involved in this excellent documentary, it took me about ten seconds to say yes,’ said Mendes.
‘There are a lot of mysteries surrounding Ben Stokes, and a lot of questions I wanted to ask. To my amazement, he answered them all.
Award winning director and cricket-lover Sam Mendes interviewed Ben Stokes
‘I was always a fan of Ben as a cricketer – how can you not be, if you are a lover of sport at the highest level – but now my admiration extends well beyond the boundaries of cricket.’
At the launch event for the film, Stokes said: ‘One thing I want to try and do with this is to get a side across to people that is quite tough to do in the image that we give across on TV.
‘Certain aspects in the media you have to do in a certain way, to come across in a certain way, to please a certain amount of people whereas for this I don’t feel like I’m having to do that.
‘I still think it’s crazy sat here that there’s a documentary being done about me. And then on top of that having Sam come and do the interviews. The whole thing is a crazy experience still for me to think about.’
The film is the latest in a series of hard-hitting documentaries screened on Prime Video, which include, The Test, Rooney, Arsene Wenger: Invincible, and the All or Nothing series.
Ben Stokes: Phoenix from the Ashes, which is directed by Chris Grubb and Luke Mellows, will be screened exclusively on Prime Video later this year.