Brisbane Heat suffered a major setback ahead of the start of Big Bash League (BBL) 2020-21 on December 10, as England batsman Tom Banton has on Saturday (December 5) pulled out of the upcoming 10th edition of the Australian T20 league citing the bio-bubble fatigue.
He was set for a second BBL stint with the Brisbane Heat after impressing all in his maiden season with the club having hammered 223 runs including three half-centuries at a strike rate of 176.98 last year.
Less than one week before the start of BBL 10 next week, Banton has stunned the Heat by withdrawing from the tournament given the demands of the ongoing bio-secure bubbles amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 22-year-old has been living in a controlled bio-bubble since July 2020 when cricket returned following Coronavirus-forced hiatus – having first played in 9 of England's limited-overs games at home against Ireland, Pakistan, and Australia and then spent almost two months in UAE during his Indian Premier League (IPL) stint with Kolkata Knight Riders, unfortunately, playing only two games in IPL 2020.
Following the IPL, the right-hander traveled to South Africa with the England squad as a team reserve. He hasn’t got any game time in South Africa and will now return home to England.
Banton said of his move: “It has been harder than I thought spending so much time in the hubs and bubbles and I came to the realization that it wasn't doing me much good. I know the Heat looked after me really well during the BBL last year and I was confident that they would understand when I spoke to Boof [Darren Lehmann] and Lynny [Chris Lynn] about going home to regroup.”
He further added, “I'd like to thank the fans and members who are getting ready to support the Heat during the tournament and pass on my regrets to them that I won't be there.”
Meanwhile, the Heat's head coach Darren Lehmann has admitted that it was a big blow to the team's planning since the BBL 2020-21 is so close, but supported Banton’s decision keeping in mind the well being of the players in this tough time due to COVID-19 pandemic.
Lehmann stated: “Look firstly Tom is a terrific young man. He's an impressive person and someone who we know would not have made a decision like this lightly and not without a great deal of soul-searching. After speaking with him at length, the best option for him is to head home to his family and loved ones and give himself every chance to recover.”
He concluded, “We've always been strong as a club that your family comes first and so we back his decision 100 percent and hope he is feeling restored and mended very soon. We shouldn't be critical of individuals making tough decisions so the best thing to do is to support them and back them. It's a setback for us, but we know there are people in our group, or those coming into our squad, who can rise to the occasion.”
(With ESPNCricinfo Inputs)