Shortly after the news came out last week, Cricket Australia was trying to dismiss plans for the advent of a crisis in mental health. Young batsman Will Pucovski retired less than a two weeks after the Victorian teammates Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddinson announced their own personal struggles for the forthcoming tests against Pakistan by Australia.
To date, there is little or no proof that professional sportspeople face mental health problems at a level higher than the general population. But the unique demands of cricket are said to exacerbate current issues by sports psychologists. While tight schedule and violence in social media are the main elements of the discussion on mental health, the unrelenting psychological challenges of sport can also be of concern.
Many people who know the game and know the sport is almost entangled in anxiety and insecurity from park cricket to the edge. This is expressed by superstitions and dressing spaces, particularly those who await bat. It’s not shocking perhaps that five high-profile cricketers from Australia have acknowledged mental health problems for the last 12 months–Maxwell, Maddinson, Pucovski, Nicole Bolton, Moises Henriques–are all (primarily) batterers.
Few have the opportunity to play professional cricket in Australia in contrast to football codes. Dr. Bradley Elphinstone, a professor at the University of Swinburne in psychology, says that players will struggle when they do not reach their goals at the highly competitive pick table.
As we have seen in the past two weeks, the complexity of each player’s personal issues is significantly different. The implacable nature of modern planning has proven unnecessarily taxing to some, while social media has taken its unfailingly negative toll on others.
Shane Watson, who was voted President of the Australian Cricketers ‘ Association last week, was perhaps the best player to understand the challenges of constant travel and violence in social media. Mental health has already been declared his first goal. Additional benefits have also emerged, especially the strong support from Virat Kohli for Maxwell and the appreciation of his own efforts.
All experts have correctly shared support for self-reporting.