A simple question: Imagine that you are a top-level international player with million eyes expecting you perform at the biggest stage and you have been failing to deliver. You are quite obviously not alone in striking a lean patch, and worried as well. As many things start playing in your mind – is it plain worry, hyper tension, depression or mental illness which, we are told, Jonathan Trott is suffering from?
Apparently, if you are those who sniggered at the taxonomy of ‘mental illness’ or depression, you are insensitive. Irrespective of how many thousands of dollars or pounds you earn, depression can hit you, we are told with many examples – across disciplines such as Vinnie Jones (football), Steve Harmison (cricket), boxers Barry McGuigan and Ricky Hatton and Neil Lennon
Marcus Trescothick, among other names, had to treat it twice while Andrew Flintoff went from patient himself to a quasi-doctor trying to look into the problem through a documentary, The Hidden Side of Sport.
Some time early in 2012, Flintoff was discussing the documentary with a journalist who retorted, “Our view then, was that if you’re called to play for your country at sport, then it’s such an incredible privilege and honour that to actually claim to be depressed because you’re having to stay in a five star hotel while you’re playing cricket for England to me seemed ridiculous”.
To which Flintoff suppressed his anger and asked, “Clinically, you cannot be depressed?”
Why not? And exactly to answer the first question rhetorically, at what point can one claim he is depressed and with authority unless he has sought professional help?
Question: Did Trott get medical help on the tour? The answer can be presumed as a No. The reason he quit the next day after the first Test ended is precisely to leave and get that help, no? Well then, he is not clinically depressed, at that point yet.
And if he did seek help behind the scenes leading up to the Brisbane game, he was clearly trying to give it one more shot hoping things will somehow fall in place and the tide will turn automatically. On that count, Flintoff will tell you what boxer Hatton tells him in the documentary film (5:45min): “I was trying to get one shot in, please, and that hoping that one shot and it might be over but …”
Even Trescothick, describing his experience in a sympathetic message to Trott in the Daily Mail, says: “There is also the temptation, because it is a competitive environment, to keep things hidden away and to try not to let anyone down, which is generally counter-productive. There were times when you think: ‘Yes, I’m getting on top this, I can do it.’ Then you find it is still looming around you. It gets bigger and bigger until there comes a point when it is overwhelming.”
Trescothick visited Dr Peter Gregory and indicated of his intention when he quit in 2006 for the first time at Baroda, India. In Trott’s case, the pressure was also building over time given his inability to convert good starts into big scores.
It could also be asked of Trott on what one game made a difference to the understandably longer build-up to merit such a drastic step. But as Martin Crowe puts it so nicely with the perspective of the Ashes series as well and the players: in this cut-throat world of professional Sport every one is trying to wear a mask to camouflage his poor form or nerves. Even Flintoff admits to it in his video. Maybe it was that one last roll of dice that Trott gave himself.
Question: But will Trott’s gamble cost England?
Without the benefit of hindsight, England get to try out a new player with no emotional baggage. Likely replacement Gary Ballance may still be a blessing in disguise. But for now, the psychological advantage has shifted even more in Australia’s favour. Not for nothing, Steve Waugh’s mind games made him one of the most successful captains of an all-conquering side.
One can only wish Trott well and hope he does not hurry back as Hatton did. As Lennon said in a TV programme, “People who suffer from it work hard not to give it away. It plays tricks with your mind. People say ‘go on holiday’,” he explains. “’Go and have a rest,’ but you take the depression with you.”
Get well soon, Trotty.
PS: One more question, one for the road for those who believe cricket can be cruel: Of all the names suffering from mental illness, how many players from the Asian countries are on the list?
- The unique psychological demands put on our sporting stars (walesonline.co.uk)
- Jonathan Trott: a casualty of cricket’s cruel test of strength (telegraph.co.uk)
- Jonathan Trott hands cricket chance to highlight mental illness issues (theguardian.com)
- Stan Collymore’s frank depression discussion after Jonathan Trott revelation is vital (metro.co.uk)