Mental Frailty in Cricket

Before The Test, there was The Edge and in some ways, it is more significant as it not only deals with the rise of English cricket but more importantly it charts the entire cycle especially the mental problems the team faced which is critical because I like to see cycles because I am an analyst and mental health is close to my heart because I have epilepsy and I have gone through all the baggage that comes with it. The truth is that the nadir is a very lonely place to be at. The careers of Trescothick, Trott and Panesar was cut short because they could not deal with the stress that cricket brought. Flintoff’s career came to an end because of his injuries but he had his fair share of problems which included Bulimia. One can only imagine what their international careers would be if they had the appropriate support. Concrete steps should have been taken after Trescothick stopped playing international cricket instead this was possibly not properly dealt with and certain pundits and journalists called Jonathan Trott’s departure from the Ashes due to mental illness a con. Mental illness manifests itself differently in different people and every individual has their way to deal with it. For Monty, it was binge eating from the room service menu while for Flintoff it was on the other side of the spectrum where he used to force himself to throw up after eating if he felt that he did not eat something healthy even if it was during a Test match. Throwing up is a physical strain on your body and forcing yourself to throw up is even more taxing.
There seldom are visible signs of mental illness and the demons come out at night behind closed doors where seconds seem like hours and the rays of the sun cannot come soon enough. International travel is part and parcel of the game today where players spend more time away from their loved ones because of the packed schedules. There is hardly time between games for a person who plays all three formats of the game and existing franchise cricket. Joy Bhattacharya mentioned in one of the panels at cricbuzz about how franchises have started to privately charter planes for individual players instead of letting them fly commercial so that they will be fresh to start playing the games as soon as possible. The Hundred if it takes place next year will possibly not help the situation as not only will it congest an already tight schedule but it possibly will decrease the morale of players not picked in the draft especially if one of the existing domestic competitions ends up being relegated to being nothing but a formality.
International cricketers who play franchise cricket especially in India have no choice but to mostly stay in their hotels as they would have achieved a national following. Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler’s stock would have gone up and their associations with affray, disciplinary action and Mankading would have become footnotes in pages of books. If Moeen Ali is selected for the tour to India and a game is played in Bangalore then he will be cheered on as a local and people will be hounding him to get their RCB shirts autographed. This lockdown that we are going through has taught all of us to handle being confined indoors but this does not mean that people will be able to handle it effectively going forward. Further, we are likely to see all forms of cricket being played behind closed doors which means that players will not be able to feed off the buzz and energy of the crowd. There is a symbiotic relationship between the players and the spectators which will be sorely missed by both sides. Watching on the Television no matter how big the screen is not the same as being there live. The Bundesliga has started playing their games behind closed doors and the pictures, as well as the post-match interview that was given by the managers of Dortmund as well as Schalke, provided a really good insight to the emotions that the players feel.
Stuart Broad put it nicely when he said that cricket is 90% mental and 10% technique. We have been critical of players and in all probability will continue to do so because we all care about the game and every one of us are heavily opinionated. I will do my best to be as sensitive as possible while accurately analysing the performance of the players. It will not be easy but I hope to achieve this. The easiest way to do this is for all players to put on a good fight because that is one of the many oddities of cricket. It is a team game where individuals are put on pedestals because of their herculean efforts but a team is as strong as its weakest link and all it takes is one ball where the reaction time of a player is less than a second to make or break a player.

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