Home > Features >

It’s time cricket authorities took a serious look at depression levels affecting the players

Jonathan Trott pulled out after the first Ashes 2013-14 Test due to mental illness © Getty Images
Jonathan Trott pulled out after the first Ashes 2013-14 Test due to mental illness © Getty Images

By Peggy Zaman

“Depression” has become an oft-used word in modern cricket. Jonathan Trott, who left the Ashes tour midway, is the latest victim of the malaise plaguing international cricket. Because of the stigma attached to the malady, the team management and administrators preferred to behave as if nothing was wrong. And even on the rare occasion the admittance came, it was attributed to lack of steel in the player than the real cause.

As a former elite tennis player, I’d like to point out many similarities between cricket and tennis — both physically and mentally.

Accuracy: Just as in tennis, batting, bowling, and fielding need to be precise and accurate. A micro millimeter can be the difference for a batsman between nicking the ball or avoiding it. The degree of swing or spin a bowler imparts on the ball is critical to getting the edge of the bat or missing it altogether.

Concentration span: In contrast to runners and soccer players, tennis and cricket require short bursts of mental concentration and physically activity.

 

Reminiscing time: Tennis players and cricketers have several seconds or even minutes in between each shot. This gives them time to chew over their mistakes instead of focusing on the next delivery or point.

Loneliness and lack of support: Professional tennis players on the international circuit spend up to 50 weeks in a year playing away from home with their coaches and trainers. Similarly, cricket players spend approximately 44 weeks of the year living out of suitcases with their teammates, coaching team and back-up staff. The extensive schedules can isolate the players from their personal, family and spiritual support structures. This can be emotionally detrimental, particularly over long periods of time.

Injuries: The nature of both sports is similar in relation to the cause of injuries. The short sprints, the sudden twists and turns, lunges and dives, usage of the entire body and limbs can lead to a high number of injuries, both new and recurring. These injuries can cause emotional distress as the athletes react with various emotions which may include anger, denial, sadness and worry.

Career span: Both sporting careers can last from their teenage years to their late 30‘s. The players undergo similar lifestyles and experiences, in their teens and adult life. Their bodies and minds go through similar pressures and stress over a long career span.

Game shift: One ball can turn a winning situation into a losing one and vice versa. A tennis player may be up 6-0, 5-0 and 40-love and still lose the match with either self-made error or because a brilliant shot from the opponent. Similarly in cricket, a wide or a four can dramatically shift the status of the game.

Performance Anxiety: This element of surprise and sudden shift can lead to a higher anxiety level to perform. The individual puts additional pressure on himself, which often leads to ‘choking’ — Jana Novotna at Wimbledon and South Africa in the 1999 World Cup are cases in point.

Hero or failure: One ball can be a deciding factor on whether the player is a hero or a failure. Even though cricket is a team sport, very often it can narrow down to one person’s performance or lack of.

Technicalities: Underperformance of a player, often targets on the technicality or mechanics of the game instead of considering the player’s emotional state. There is a tendency to find fault with a player’s technique such as, “You’re snapping your wrist too much on your forehand”, “You’re bowling too front on” or, “there is too much gap between bat and pad”. Often the initial need to assess the players’ mental state of mind before dealing with the kinetic details is overlooked.

Psychological disorders in cricket include anxiety, mild to severe depression, bipolar/manic depression, borderline personality disorder, Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorders, Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia and seasonal affective disorders. Fortunately, medical experts agree that all of these conditions are treatable, though early detection is the key. While depression has no apparent visual symptoms, signs such as irritability (one of the most under-recognised symptoms), mood swings, bursts of anger, muscle and joint pain, headaches, fatigue and fibromyalgia are often symptoms and should not be dismissed. Depression is insidious and very often cricketers are just unaware. If appropriate treatment is not received the depressed individuals often turn to counterproductive behaviors such as drinking and substance abuse.

Players who collapsed emotionally in the past few years (Trott, Marcus Trescothick, Lou Vincent), should have all received assistance at the earliest clues. Not unlike corporations and firms, cricketing administrative bodies are employers, hence have substantial duties of care towards their employees. The International Cricket Council (ICC), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), the English and Wales Cricket Board (ECB), Cricket Australia (CA) and various other relevant cricketing organisations must immediately devise plans and implement appropriate procedures to effectively deal with a player’s mental health. Just as there are specific tests to determine the physical fitness of a player before being eligible to compete, specialized tests to determine their mental fitness under the supervision of a psychologist and/or psychiatrist should be mandatory.

We simply cannot allow any more cricketers to succumb to this crippling disease due to ignorance and neglect.

(Peggy Zaman is a former professional tennis player who represented India. Cricket is her first passion and she has in-depth knowledge of the sport. She is also a corporate lawyer and is undertaking an LLM specializing in intellectual property, fashion and sports law. She has a strong interest in legal issues in cricket. Peggy resides in the United States with her husband and three young kids. You can follow Peggy on Twitter @cricketlaws)  

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 20, 2014 (14:30 IST)   at Kolkata

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (11:30 IST)   at Dubai

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 22, 2014 (19:00 IST)   at Cuttack

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 24, 2014 (03:00 IST)   at Mount Maunganui

Zimbabwe tour of Bangladesh, 2014

Oct 25, 2014 (09:30 IST)   at Dhaka

More

South Africa tour of New Zealand, 2014

Oct 21, 2014  at Mount Maunganui

South Africa won by 6 wkts

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 17, 2014  at Dharamsala

India won by 59 runs

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 14, 2014  at Visakhapatnam

Match cancelled

Pakistan vs Australia in UAE, 2014

Oct 12, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Australia won by 1 run

West Indies tour of India, 2014

Oct 11, 2014  at Delhi

India won by 48 runs

Photos

Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai

Videos

AB de Villiers praises team after win in 1st ODI

Live Cricket Score Pakistan vs Australia, 1st Test at Dubai Day 2: Warner and Rogers put on fifth century parternship

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Mitchell Johnson shows signs of effectiveness on unhelpful surfaces

Younis Khan: First Pakistani and 12th overall to score a century against all 9 Test nations

Australia Australia tour of UAE 2014 Australia vs Pakistan Australia vs Pakistan 2014 India New Zealand New Zealand vs South Africa New Zealand vs South Africa 2014 Pakistan Pakistan vs Australia Pakistan vs Australia 2014 South Africa South Africa tour of New Zealand 2014 South Africa vs New Zealand South Africa vs New Zealand 2014

Duleep Trophy 2014-15: Naman Ojha smashes double ton as Central Zone pile huge score against North Zone

David Warner half-century guides Australia to 113/0 against Pakistan on Day 2 of 1st Test

Sachin Tendulkar wishes fans on Diwali

New Zealand vs South Africa, 2nd ODI at Mt Maunganui Preview: Hosts look to draw level to stay alive

IPL 2013 spot-fixing and betting controversy: Mudgal committee may have evidence against Gurunath Meiyappan

Viv Richards’ 6/41 bowls West Indies to a thrilling victory over India

Asad Shafiq emerges as dependable No 6 for Pakistan

Pakistan vs Australia 2014: Mitchell Johnson shows signs of effectiveness on unhelpful surfaces

Joginder Sharma: When an over eclipses a career

South Africa vs New Zealand 2014: Vital for Brendon McCullum to find form quickly

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

642 Posts | 9 Fans

Virat Kohli's Family Meets Anushka Sharma

Marvel’s Avengers- Age of Ultron teaser trailer: Robert Downey Jr and Mark Ruffalo’s film looks promising-watch video!

iFixit cracks open the iPad Air 2, finds smaller battery and hard to repair setup

OMG: Aamir Khan used to have 100 paans a day during the shoot of PK!

Krishna water dispute should be addressed via discussions: Governor

Top Sex Positions: Frog Princess

Share sense of outrage with Canadian people over Parl attack: Narendra Modi

Photographer Bimal Nepal accuses Prime Minister Narendra Modi of stealing photo for his Dhanteras Facebook post

How to make tamarind or imli packs for hair and skin

Also on cricketcountry.com

Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here