Ben Stokes’ father Ged is in “a critical condition” in a Johannesburg hospital, with the England all-rounder at his bedside.
The England and Wales Cricket Board announced that the former rugby league player was taken in with a “serious illness” on Monday.
Stokes was due to join his team-mates in a Christmas Eve training session in Centurion, 45 minutes north of Johannesburg, but will instead be with his family.
It is not yet known whether the newly-crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year, who lit up 2019 with unforgettable performances in the World Cup and the Ashes, will be in a position to take the field at SuperSport Park on Boxing Day.
An ECB statement read: “Ben Stokes’s father, Ged, was admitted to hospital on Monday in Johannesburg after suffering a serious illness. He remains in a critical condition.
“The all-rounder will not be at England’s training session at SuperSport Park this afternoon so that he can be at his father’s bedside. The England and Wales Cricket Board, with the support of Ben and his family, request that the media and public respect Ben and his family’s privacy at this time.”
Stokes senior, 64, played one rugby league Test for New Zealand in 1982 and first moved to England as a player with Workington Town.
He later coached the team, as well as Whitehaven, and it was in Cumbria that his son began to show his aptitude for cricket.
Ged, whose full name is Gerard, now lives just outside Christchurch with Stokes’ mother Deb. The couple were overjoyed by their son’s World Cup heroics and even appeared on Good Morning Britain via videolink the day after the historic win at Lord’s, where they were interviewed by Piers Morgan.
England captain Joe Root, speaking at a press conference, said: “It puts things in perspective. We’re here to play good, hard cricket but it’s important as a squad that we want Ben and his family to have all the support they can get.
“I want to stress the importance of respecting his privacy. All the players and squad want to show Ben our support.
“What’s most important is we support him and his family. It’s crucial that comes first.”
England will allow Stokes whatever freedom he needs ahead of the Test match and will rejig their team as necessary if he is unable to feature.
The selection picture was already cloudy, with uncertainty over Jofra Archer’s fitness following a week-long sickness bug. Sam Curran is the closest to a like-for-like deputy to Stokes, as an authentic all-rounder, but England may also be tempted to recall Jonny Bairstow as a specialist batsman given Stokes’ key role at number five.
And in a further selection worry, England confirmed that Chris Woakes has gone down with an illness and will not train on Christmas Eve.
“We’ve had a bit of bad news with Woakesy going down ill, he won’t be training (on Tuesday),” Root said. “We’ll see how that unfolds. It’s quite frustrating. He seems to have got to the doc quite quickly, so we’ll see how he pulls up at the back end of (Tuesday) and (Wednesday).
“We have to handle it. We’ll have to wait and see. We’ll make a very late call on our side.”