Gary Lineker and Kevin Pietersen are among the sporting stars wishing Ben Stokes well after the Cumbrian's decision to step back from cricket for the good of his mental health.

The England all-rounder is taking an "indefinite" break from the game to focus on his well-being and also to allow his recently-injured finger to further heal.

Yesterday's announcement has seen many supportive messages sent to Stokes, while the England & Wales Cricket Board said they will offer the Cockermouth star their full backing.

England football legend and BBC presenter Lineker said Stokes had shown courage in his decision - and said it will help others who may be struggling with their mental health.

He tweeted: "Wishing @benstokes38 a speedy recovery.

"When our sporting heroes are brave and open up about their mental health problems it will help others realise that they are not alone with theirs. As we’ve seen over the last few days no one is invincible. Well played and good luck, Ben."

Iconic batsman Pietersen, speaking on Sky Sports, said there were signs recently that things were not necessarily as they should be with Stokes.

And he said he hoped Stokes would benefit from a break from action.

Pietersen said: "It was interesting - Ben got asked the question in Leeds the other night about his finger, and his response...I was like, 'Did I hear that right?'

"It wasn't your normal response to an injury - [like] 'no dramas, let's get on with the game'. There was something more.

"To really probe him in an interview, you could have gone there because of the way he answered that.

"I hope he's ok. He's a fabulous cricketer, one of the best in the world at the moment.

"He obviously lost his dad [Ged, who died last December]...a lot of things have happened to Ben Stokes in the last couple of years.

"I don't want to comment on it too much because I don't know what the issue is. But all I know is that I want him to be ok."

Sri Lanka legend Kumar Sangakkara added that it was vital the right support network was there for players like Stokes who need it.

"I'm sure it must be a very, very tough time for Ben and his family and it won't be a decision that [was] made easily," he said.

"But it brings into focus the fact that, at the level players play at, elite professional sport, [your] coping mechanisms can only deal with so much.

"It's very important to have a support structure around players to help them and identify signs very early so these types of decisions are suported by very good people around them to help them through it."

The 30-year-old Stokes has withdrawn from England's Test squad ahead of the series against India, starting next week, with the ECB saying the Durham star wished to "prioritise his mental wellbeing", and also to rest his left index finger, "which has not fully healed since his return to competitive cricket earlier this month". 

New Zealand cricketer Jimmy Neesham said: "Wishing @benstokes38  all the best for his time away from the game. Probably a timely reminder that, no matter how resilient or ‘mentally tough’, the last couple of years have been challenging for everyone for many different reasons. Be a little kinder to each other."

The ECB said they fully support Stokes' decision, and will continue to help him during his period away from the game.

Managing director of England men's cricket, Ashley Giles, said: "Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and well-being.

"Our primary focus has always been and will continue to be the mental health and welfare of all of our people.

"The demands on our athletes to prepare and play elite sport are relentless in a typical environment, but the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded this. 

"Spending significant amounts of time away from family, with minimal freedoms, is extremely challenging. The cumulative effect of operating almost continuously in these environments over the last 16 months has had a major impact on everyone's wellbeing.

"Ben will be given as long as he needs, and we look forward to seeing him playing cricket for England in the future."