The decision by England all-rounder Ben Stokes to take an extended vacation from all forms of cricket raises a slew of often-overlooked but important considerations. Stokes, England’s best all-rounder and all-rounder, isn’t the first player to face such difficulties, and he won’t be the last. Even if the England and Wales Cricket Board’s support for perhaps one of its most valuable property is nice to see, it does not answer all of the questions that must definitely be answered.
Stokes’ resignation was the 4th VIP exit in recent years, followed by Naomi Osaka, the world No. 2 in women’s tennis, withdrawl from Wimbledon due to mental health difficulties, as has US gymnast Simone Biles, who has withdrawn from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Within a week after Stokes’ call, New Zealand women’s team all-rounder backed out of the Whtie Ferns’ planned England trip for the same reason. Mental health issues are a major issue in today’s culture, and living in the midst of a global epidemic has further exacerbated the situation.
“Having a little amount of perks while being away from family for a long time is difficult”. “The cumulative effect of operating nearly continuously in these settings for the previous 16 months has had a substantial impact on everyone’s welfare,” says the report. England’s director of men’s cricket Ashley Giles stated in response to Stokes’ departure.
That is not to say that mental health concerns had not exist previously. Players of many ages and countries have encountered comparable obstacles, from Marcus Trescothick to Jonathan Trott, Glenn Maxwell to Will Pucovski. The exact origin of the modern idea of mental health cannot be determined, however believing that it is as ancient as mankind may not be a dangerous assumption.
Despite this, it is still a problem that does not receive the attention it deserves. In fact, a narrow knowledge of it exacerbates the problem to a larger extent. A frequent myth, especially in some Asian nations, is that people with high-paying jobs or large salaries are impervious to mental illness. According to that grotesquely erroneous logic, a player of Stokes’ height could never have come close to achieving what he accomplished. Stokes, on the other hand, is only one among many.
It’s something that a lot of individuals have gone through.
In February of 2006, Marcus Trescothick, England’s prolific opener, returned to his nation in the middle of the India tour, citing personal reasons that were subsequently revealed to be mental health difficulties. “I had no idea what was going on.Trescothick told Men’s Health magazine in 2016, “I had no knowledge depression”. “But whatever was going on, I didn’t want to have to say anything about it on TV.” “There was a lot of inexperience and ignorance,” says the narrator. ‘What are you depressed about?’ others might ask. You are an England cricketer. You travel around the world. You are properly compensated.'”It’s quite difficult to discern the black zone when you’ve never experienced it,” Trescothick added, emphasising how such difficulties are dealt with in society.
Apart from Kevin Pietersen, who blamed packed schedules for pushing players into such territories, Mike Yardley, who left the 2011 World Cup midway through, and Steve Harmison, who feared never returning to the national team again as he went from being the No. 1 bowler to being labelled good for nothing, have also opened up about facing problems in the past.
Like Indian bowler Mohammed Shami, who admitted to contemplating suicide three times owing to stress and personal problems. “Three times throughout that period, I considered suicide owing to significant stress and personal issues.
” I wasn’t even thinking about cricket. We lived on the 24th floor. “They (family) were afraid I’d leap off the balcony,” Shami said in an Instagram live video. Mr. Rohit Sharma.
Problems like these are not uncommon at the domestic level or among athletes who are just starting out in their international careers. Sheldon Jackson, Saurashtra’s senior batter, informed CricTracker that he was considering retiring from the game because he was “not in the right mental state.”
Fighting with the demons of the head
From exhausting training to high performance expectations, self-doubt to anxieties, fear of failure to never-ending competition, athletes are vulnerable to mental diseases for a variety of reasons. When you add in the continual public scrutiny brought on by the rise of social media, you’ve got yourself a recipe for catastrophe. In these times when people are getting increasingly impatient, it just takes one failure for even the best to be slammed.
Tons of cricketers have testified that Covid-19 has brought mental anguish to the game, and there is ample literature and actual evidence to back up the assertion. According to a report published by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, “the next pandemic will be mental health difficulties induced by the Covid-19 pandemic catastrophe.”In light of the times we live in, dealing with these issues becomes even more vital. However, it will not be simple.
Preconceptions and taboos
Not to belabour the point, but mental health difficulties may affect anybody, regardless of race, class, gender, career, status, or anything. Despite this, there is a lot of stigma associated with mental health difficulties because of negative preconceptions and misguided beliefs. It is specifically a truth in elite sports, where players are idolised.
Males cannot be depressed, according to popular belief, and those who are are weak. Stereotypes like these compel patients to retreat into a cocoon and avoid making admissions, exacerbating their issues. To address the question of what was so courageous in Stokes’ revelation,It was the bravery of not being labelled “weak” or “unmanly”: a fear that is typically the root reason of athletes’ unwillingness to disclose such challenges.
Pleas for expert assistance and lessons learned from the old days
Veda Krishnamurthy, an Indian cricketer who has acknowledged that she has suffered with mental health challenges in the past, has advocated for a structured support system.
“A lot of cricketers are now aware of the importance of mental wellness”, but it’s also vital to acknowledge that if the system isn’t doing anything to help you with your mental health, you can and must get support for yourself if you can afford it.”. I’ve struggled with mental health issues and sought support to deal with them on my own.”
Kohli revealed on the podcast ‘Not Just Cricket,’ hosted by former England cricketer Mark Nicholas, that he “really feels the need for professional support”. “…someone you can go to at any moment, have a dialogue with, and say, ‘Listen, this is how I’m feeling, I’m having trouble falling asleep, and I don’t want to get up in the morning”. ‘I don’t trust myself; what should I do?’ “A lot of people suffer from that emotion for longer periods of time, it lasts for months, it lasts for a whole cricket season, and they can’t get out of it,” Kohli added.
While the issue remains largely unaddressed in cricket-playing Asian and African countries, as well as the West Indies and New Zealand, two nations, England and Australia, have rightly prioritised player welfare and have taken tiny but effective steps in the right direction, including the highly-controversial and debatable ECB policy of rest and rotation to ensure England’s all-format players’ physical and mental well-being. While opinions on that policy differ, not least because of some obvious downsides – a topic for another day — the aim behind it is undeniably good.
The Next Steps
While social media and unrelenting competition have increased cricketers’ vulnerability, the game’s regulatory authorities cannot be fully blamed. To guarantee that the cricketing system does not become a reason for a player to become mentally unwell, each board must have a strategy for such situations. Let us presume that everyone is susceptible, whether this is true or not.
For far too long, such issues have been swept under the rug, but discussions and awareness about mental health have reached an all-time high since the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, which may have brought with it a slew of disadvantages, but a welcome sense of normalcy about mental health issues has been a byproduct.
In sports, physical fitness is important, but what good is a healthy body if the mind isn’t? The stories above are just a few examples of why it’s past time to pay attention to mental health. And, as individuals, let us pledge to always provide a sympathetic ear to those in need. We are still a long way from there.