Brisbane Heat’s Tom Banton pulls out of BBL as bubble life takes toll

England batsman Tom Banton has withdrawn from his BBL deal with the Brisbane Heat due to the demands of the ongoing biosecure bubbles he has been part of in recent months.

Banton is currently with the England squad in South Africa as a reserve player which came on the back of his IPL stint with Kolkata Knight riders in the UAE. That in turn followed the home season where he was part of England’s limited-overs bubbles against Ireland, Pakistan and Australia.

He was due to head to Australia straight from South Africa and then serve his mandatory 14-day quarantine before being available for the Heat after Christmas.

“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,” Banton said. “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.

“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.”

The Heat’s head coach Darren Lehman said Banton had the full support of the club although he conceded it was a blow to the team’s planning so close to the tournament starting. It adds to the Heat’s difficulties in the lead-up to season after Mujeeb Ur Rahman, the Afghanistan spinner, tested positive for Covid-19 while in hotel quarantine in Queensland and was moved to a hospital.

“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,” Lehmann said.

“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. 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.

“It is a very challenging time for many people and cricket is no exception. There is no normality or work life balance which is so important, especially in elite sport. The well-being of the players is paramount and I am sure everyone – fans, coaches, administrators, sponsors – recognizes that.

“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.”

The Heat also have batsman Dan Lawrence signed for a five-game stint at the start of the tournament and it remains to be seen whether that could be extended in light of Banton’s withdrawal. Lewis Gregory, the England allrounder, is their other overseas player and Lehmann said they would be scouting for cover.

The Heat’s opening match is on December 11 against the Melbourne Stars in Canberra.

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