England batsman Tom Banton has pulled out of his Big Bash League contract with Brisbane Heat, admitting he has struggled with spending much of the past year in bio-secure bubbles.
Banton is currently with England as a reserve player for their limited-overs tour of South Africa and was due to travel direct to Australia, where he would have served a two-week hotel quarantine before becoming available for the competition.
Banton, 22, has spent the majority of his time since the sport's coronavirus shutdown eased in some kind of controlled environment, taking part in England's behind-closed-doors series against Ireland, Pakistan and Australia over the summer, then heading to the two-month Indian Premier League with Kolkata Knight Riders.
He was not selected by England for either the ODI or T20 squads to take on the Proteas but was asked to travel as a standby, totalling another three weeks away from friends and family.
"It has been harder than I thought spending so much time in the hubs and bubbles and I came to the realisation that it wasn't doing me much good," Banton told the Brisbane Heat website.
"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 (head coach Darren Lehman) and Lynny (captain Chris Lynn) about going home to regroup.
"I will miss playing in front of the crowds at the Gabba and the Gold Coast who were so passionate about the Heat and hope that I can repeat that experience again in the future."
Lehmann, the former Australia head coach, gave his full support to the player.
"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," he 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 per cent 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. We shouldn't be critical of individuals making tough decisions so the best thing to do is to support them and back them."