CRICKETERS AND MENTAL DEPRESSION

Eat. Sleep. Rave. Repeat. The perfect mantra of an ideal man to survive in this world. 

Eat. Be fit. Play for the nation. Face criticism. Nurse injuries. Get back on the field. Retire. The not so perfect mantra for an International cricketer.

We as Indians laugh it off when we hear if someone is low or needs help with mental health. Our common suggestion to him/her would be to pick themselves up and stop complaining about it. No wonder Psychiatrists are paid lesser here when compared to their counterparts in other 1st world countries.

They say ‘When the going gets tough, the tough gets going’ but when it refuses to go further then it all starts to crumble. When an International cricketer breaks down due to an injury, he not only puts his body at stake but also his chances for another call up to the squad. And when this thought starts polluting your mind then its oblivion. 

As avid cricket viewers we simply shrug it off assuming he would make a comeback very soon, but we never know what he would be going through in such a phase. Here I have compiled few instances from my memory where International cricketers had to face such disheartening instances.

MICHEAL YARDY

You would probably remember Yardy as that guy who bought a spark in England’s limited overs team. A Slow Left Arm bowler who could also strike a few lusty blows whenever England required him to. He was a vital cog for them when they won the 2010 T20 World Cup and they had their hopes on him to deliver in the crucial 50 over World cup that was supposed to follow up next year. The big stage had come, England had managed to perform well too. But Yardy had some tough times in the field. Thought to be very effective on Sub-continent pitches he could only rack up two wickets against India, South Africa & Ireland. 

The group stage was done and dusted and England was ready to face Sri Lanka in a high profile quarter final clash and then came the shocking statement from the dressing room. Micheal Yardy chose to pull out of the squad citing depression as the reason and that he had been managing it for a prolonged period of time. ECB had respected his decision and supported him throughout. At 30 in 2011, critics assumed his career was finished and unfortunately he never played for England again.

JONATHAN TROTT

For someone who racked up close to 4000 runs in 50 odd tests, Trott would walk into any Test XI purely out of merit. He was part of the English squad who were the best travellers from 2009-2012. The away Ashes was coming in 2013 and the stage was set for him to set the batting charts ablaze. We all know what had happened in that Ashes. There was Mitchel Johnson who was firing thunderbolts at the Englishmen and they fell like a pack of cards. And Trott had left the tour after just one test.

He was later interviewed and he had revealed that he felt broken from long time and to escape cricket he wanted to drive his car into River Thames. He admitted that facing fast bowling was never a concern but in 2013 when Johnson was bowling he was hit on the body many times and couldn’t respond at all. His technique and judgement was totally muddled and that’s when he had decided to pull out of cricket once it for all. He briefly made a comeback in late 2014 but he was never the Trott we all knew. He retired in 2018 and took up a job in the commentary box and he still points the blame to media scrutiny for cricketers facing such hardships.

GLENN MAXWELL

There’s always this funny person at school who could cackle you up and brighten your day, but you would never bother to ask him if he was happy behind his mask. Maxwell was such a live-wire for the Australian team, let it be in any format. Striking monstrous sixes, bowling innocuous offies & effecting run-outs was bread and butter for him. Cited as a natural leader he was next in line to lead his country at the International stage. 

You could see that his recent performances against Sri Lanka was just a teaser and the main picture was yet to come. The news didn’t just drop but it ripped apart the entire nation. Maxwell had announced an indefinite break from cricket citing mental health issues for which his team members and the board gave full support to. Even though he was happy and chirping in the ear-mic, the commentators said he never enjoyed the cricket he was playing and it was all with a mask on. Maxwell still has a lot to contribute to Australian cricket and we are hopeful he would comeback soon to entertain the pundits.

NIC MADDINSON

Cricketers from the U-19 setup never fail to impress you. Nic Maddinson was touted to be the next Mathew Hayden for Australia resembling his attacking his instincts and habits of going over the top. Hailed as a fearless batsmen he made his debut against India in a T20 match and carted Bhuvneshwar Kumar and the spinners to all parts of the ground. He admitted that there were a lot of expectations in cricket now and it’s hard to deal with. This wasn’t the first time for him as way back in 2017 he had faced a similar situation. Australian cricket was further shook hearing this and now started approaching players to come out in the open to discuss any kind of mental health related issues. 

From personal experiences where I myself had played Corporate and Club Level cricket I had more bad games than good games. Sometimes it would lead to sleepless nights, frustration at workplace and ennui. Imagine the pressure at International Level which would be tenfold. The media scrutiny and online trolls would further bring them down. Maybe we need a better setup at the Junior Level to help dealing this. Maybe team-mates and family members can be more supportive. But it’s the fan who needs to have sensible expectations from their favourite players. I can barely imagine the mental pressure Sachin Tendulkar or Ms Dhoni had to take. Different players have different methods to deal with it. But end of the day we need to take this problem seriously and address it.

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Anurag Yeddula
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