Jonathan Trott's stress-related illness attributed to packed cricket schedule, 'stressful tours'

Jonathan Trott returned to England after the first Ashes 2013-14 Test at Brisbane due to stress-related illness © Getty Images

By Julian Guyer
London: Nov 27, 2013

During the overwhelmingly sympathetic reaction to England batsman Jonathan Trott‘s decision to quit the Ashes tour of Australia suffering from a “stress-related illness”, a theme has emerged.
It was well put by Colin Povey, the chief executive of Warwickshire, Trott’s county side, who said Tuesday: “When you look at the international schedule it’s pretty relentless and it takes its toll.”
Now there are many sound reasons for reducing the volume of international cricket although, given the elite game is the financial motor of the whole sport, few that are likely to bring about that reduction in the near future.
Reduced opportunities for fixing, an increased value in the intrinsic worth of international cricket as well as less likelihood of bad feeling from one series spilling over into another, as has happened this year between England and Australia given the ongoing Ashes is being played just a matter of months after the last one, would all seem to be desirable.
But would fewer matches prevent another player suffering the kind of mental health problems that have afflicted Trott?
The answer, of course, partly depends on the exact nature of Trott’s condition, the precise details of which have, understandably, been kept private.
But if he is in fact suffering from clinical depression, merely reducing the number of matches may not help that much.
As depression sufferer Alastair Campbell, who served as press secretary to former British prime minister Tony Blair, once put it: “For depressives, depression just is, the same as for cancer sufferers, cancer just is, and if you catch a cold, you just do.”
One question asked repeatedly since Trott’s withdrawal is, knowing what they did about his condition, why did England select him for their most high profile and ‘stressful’ tour?
It was one England team director Andy Flower tried to answer by saying: “There was always a possibility [this might happen] but he [Trott] has always managed it successfully.
“It is something that has fluctuated and there was nothing to suggest this Test [the first in Brisbane which England lost by the colossal margin of 381 runs with Trott managing just 10 and 9] should be any different. We believed he would handle it, as he always had.”
Given Trott had so often come through for England, it is easy to see why Flower was prepared to take the kind of calculated risk more often associated with a player carrying a physical injury.
But the fact Trott left a tour after two cheap dismissals by Mitchell Johnson, the latest left-arm seamer to trouble him in an unusually low scoring year by the England No 3, has clouded an already complicated issue.
“It would be much easier to appreciate the seriousness of the deterioration of his mental health had he scored some runs and then gone home,” wrote former England bowler Mike Selvey in the Guardian.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the three best known recent cases of England players withdrawing because of mental health issues — Marcus Trescothick, Michael Yardy and now Trott — have all come on overseas tours, where players are far away from loved ones and familiar support systems.
And in all three instances, the decision to quit a tour was triggered by the player concerned saying, in effect, ‘I’ve had enough’.
For Trott to come back to international cricket, something that has proved beyond Yardy and Trecsothick, is unlikely to be easy. Given the undeserved stigma still attached to mental health issues, had England left him out of the tour for “stress-related” reasons it might have been that much harder still.