Behind the glamour and fame that cricketers go through comes an equally dark life mental depression which is slowly taking shape or is rather beginning to show its ugly face. In a bone-chilling interview with the Indian Express, yesteryears India fast-bowler Praveen Kumar has opened up on his battle with mental depression which once forced him to end his life a couple of months ago.

The Meerut resident, who retired from international cricket in 2018 after being overlooked by the selectors for long, walked through a dark phase where he struggled to battle mental health issues and loneliness. However, he had the support of his family which has helped him to undergo therapy while trying to get his personal life back on track.

Praveen Kumar last played a match for India eight years ago a Twenty20 International against South Africa in Johannesburg. During that time, he lost an Indian Premier League (IPL) contract and is currently aiming to be involved with the sport in different ways like coaching. But his life came to a complete halt in November 2019. when he left his home with a revolver in the middle of the night.

“I told myself, ‘Kya hai yeh sab? Bas khatam karte hain (What’s all this? Let me just end it)’,” Praveen told The Indian Express.

But a picture of his children stopped him from pulling the trigger. “I realised I can’t do this to my phool-jaise bachche (innocent children), put them through this hell. I turned back,” he added.

That incident prompted Kumar to seek mental help. He was soon diagnosed with depression. “India mein depression concept hee kahan hota hai (Who understands depression in India)? Nobody knows about it and in Meerut, certainly not.

“I had no one to talk to, felt almost constant chid-chidapan (irritation). As a fast bowler, I had to do a lot of thinking (to out-smart batsmen). I told the counselor I was unable to switch off thoughts,” Praveen said.

For Praveen, who has wooed fans with his impeccable swing, life away from cricket seemed meaningless. “I have nothing to do, I want to do something but I just can’t. I had been bowling so well. In England, everybody praised me. I was dreaming about a Test career. Suddenly, gaya sab kuchch (it was all gone).”

“How much can one speak to your own family? Since birth, I have been surrounded by people. Someone walking on the road would say hello, salaam dua ho gayi (exchange pleasantries). Now, if I have to speak to someone, I have to go to my restaurant. There is no communication at all here,” added Kumar.

Kumar admitted that he drinks, but the issue gets blown out of proportion. “Mostly my scraps have been about friends, like the case when fans abused Rohit Sharma. Please tell me who doesn’t drink. People have spread this perception, I don’t know why. No one will speak about the good things I have done. I sponsor young children, I have arranged marriages of 10 girls, I help cricketers financially. India mein bas sab ek hawa banate hain log. Meri hawa galat banayi gayi. Hawa toh hawa hai, ek baar chal gayi toh one can’t do anything (In India, a perception is created. A perception was created about me too. Once that happens, one can’t do anything),” revealed Kumar.

Elaborating on his future plans and his fight against depression, Kumar aims at taking up coaching in a bid to get back to the game which he is most looking forward to. Monetary benefits, he says, can come later. “UP cricket gave me everything, it’s my home. Apna maarega, phir bhi chaaon mein daalega. Doosra maarega toh pata nahin kahan faink de (If our own people hit us, they will at least throw us in the shade. Others can throw me anywhere). I told my friends that I have played all my life in UP, and I want to be the bowling coach of UP. I have the skill and passion to teach youngsters I can do it.

“Money has never been priority, I was lucky to see fame. All I want is to get back to cricket. That’s the only thing I know and love. Some said get into politics, but I can’t handle politics at home, what will I do outside?” joked Kumar.

“I used to fear myself a few months ago, apne aap sey darr tha. That’s what bad time does. If someone didn’t answer my call, I would feel terrible, neglected. It killed me inside. Thankfully, that dark phase is behind me. Koi nahin, PK phir waapis aayega (Don’t worry, PK will come back),” concluded Kumar.