The news that England batsman Marcus Trescothick has
brought down the curtain on his international career
due to bouts of depression when away from home is part
of a worrisome trend.
The 32-year-old left-hander was a powerful presence
while opening the batting and had an excellent record
in both his 76 Test matches and 123 ODIs. Now that has
come to an end and he will concentrate on his county
career with Somerset.
Another England player with a severe case of
homesickness is pace bowler Steve Harmison who has
flopped on the tour of New Zealand.
Former England coach Duncan Fletcher summed up his
malaise tellingly when he wrote in his autobiography
that Harmison would get homesick when he so much as
stepped out from his front door to pick up his mail!
The enormous amount of traveling an international
cricketer is forced to endure brings tremendous
strains on family life and constantly living out of
planes, hotels and suitcases can be a depressing
The positive side of this sad tale is that todays
modern cricketers are able to unburden their
depression in public without fear of being ostracised
as was often the case in the past.
Australian fast bowler Shaun Tait and New Zealand
batsman Lou Vincent recently went public with their
problems and are no doubt the better for it.
Tait took a short break to recharge his mental and
physical batteries and the latest news is that he is
already better following he rest.
Vincent admitted to bouts of depression brought on by
self-doubt and a lack of self-belief in his playing
ability. Perhaps he will find the less stressful
environs of the Indian Cricket League a welcome break
from the hectic touring that is the lot of todays
Trescothick, Tait and Vincent however can all count
themselves lucky that they came out in the open and
received professional counseling. Some have not been
that fortunate and have taken the ultimate step.
Last year the Indian cricket fraternity was sent
reeling by a spate of suicides, including by a young
woman cricketer and one alleged attempt as well.
Acclaimed Anglo-Australian cricket author and
historian David Frith authored two books on the grim
subject, By His Own Hand in 1990 and then an update a
decade later, Silence of the Heart.
It is indeed surprising that the rate of suicide or
attempted suicide in India seems to have risen
alarmingly, he told me last year. My earlier
findings pointed to this problem seemingly being
confined almost exclusively to WASPs (White
Anglo-Saxon Protestants). The few Indians included in
the study all seemed to be immersed in doubt. Perhaps
a sense of shame in this matter is felt to be more
acute on the sub-continent.
Though not widely reported in the Indian media, the
2007 Wisden Cricketers Almanack listed former
Vidarbha Ranji Trophy player Umakant Phate (40) as
having taken his own life in the Hoogly River in 2006.
Kanpur cricket circles reacted with shock and anger
last year to the suicide of young Subhash Dixit who
led the national Under-15 and Under-17 sides but could
not break into the Uttar Pradesh Ranji Trophy squad.
And Manish Mishra, another UP cricketer met a similar
fate two years back.
So what lies behind this tragic trend? Is it the
increasing pressure to succeed, much like the stress
of school and college examinations that so often
tragically end in suicides too?
I agree that the new and insidious factor is wild
ambition, not always on the part of the young
cricketer himself but from pushy fathers, who crave
success and wealth for their promising offspring, thus
creating intolerable pressure, says Frith.
And the wealth and success available in Indian cricket
has just skyrocketed with the advent of the 20/20
The most alarming aspect is that cricket has more
suicides than any other sport and the rate is higher
than in all Western suicides, a macabre statistic
unearthed by Friths research. No wonder the ECB
(England and Wales Cricket Board) set up a helpline
for troubled souls. Is it too much to expect the same
of the BCCI?