Players’ mental health becoming major issue in cricket

AP Updated: 15 November, 2019, 11:34 AM IST


A serious health concern is emerging in Australian cricket. The first test of the home summer starts in Brisbane next week and Australia have three players out of the selection frame because of mental health reasons.

Veteran all-rounder Glenn Maxwell and ex-test batman Nic Maddinson made themselves unavailable for the series against Pakistan before 21-year-old Will Pucovksi informed selectors that he didn’t want to be considered for national duties.

Pucovski was playing in an Australia A tour game against Pakistan in Perth when he made the call, and the decision was announced Thursday, hours before Australia’s chairman of selectors, Trevor Hohns, was due to announce the test squad.

The mental health issue isn’t isolated or, seemingly, new in cricket. Senior England batsmen have left tours going back more than a decade because of mental health issues.

And India captain Virat Kohli spoke openly this week about his own struggles. Kohli is one of the world’s premier batsmen and respected leaders, and is involved in a home series against Bangladesh.

“I’ve gone through a phase in my career where I felt like it was the end of the world,” he told a news conference in India. “In England 2014, I didn't know what to do, what to say to anyone, and how to speak and how to communicate. And to be honest, I couldn't have said ‘I'm not feeling great mentally and I need to get away from the game.’ Because you never know how that's taken.”

That kind of statement is being taken seriously by the sport’s administrators now.

Cricket Australia national teams manager Ben Oliver commended Pucovski “for having the courage to discuss his situation."

"Will's decision not to nominate for test selection was the right one in the circumstances,” Oliver said. “By Will bravely taking this position, he will undoubtedly inspire others facing similar challenges to speak up and take positive steps toward improving their mental well-being.

“The most important thing now is for Will to be given the time, space and expert support that he needs to return to full health as soon as possible.”

The 31-year-old Maxwell, who has played seven tests, 110 one-day internationals and 61 Twenty20 internationals, has been in and out of the Australian team throughout his career. He withdrew from selection during a series against Sri Lanka last month.

Maddinson, who was rushed into the Australian team against South Africa in 2016, has played three tests but didn’t appear comfortable at the highest level of the game. He ruled himself out of national selection not long after Maxwell’s announcement last month.

Pucovski played the first of his 18 first-class games in 2017. He has a high-score of 243 and a first-class average of almost 41. He was set for a test debut in January but withdrew, citing mental health issues. He was back in calculations for this southern summer before making the same call.

Cricket Australia’s sports medicine manager, Alex Kountouris, said player welfare was paramount.

“There is much society still needs to learn in relation to mental health, but we know enough to say with great certainty that silence is not the answer,” Kountouris said. “Will has demonstrated great strength in being open about his situation. While no one wants to see a fine young man like Will confronting mental well-being issues, we are heartened by the fact he is surrounded by excellent people who will support him.”

Kohli described the example set by Maxwell as “remarkable.”

“He set the right example for cricketers all over the world — that if you’re not in the best frame of mind, you try and try and try, but as human beings you reach a tipping point and you need time away from the game,” Kolhi said. “These things should be respected and not taken in a negative way.

“This is happening on a human level, it’s got nothing to do with what you do on the field. It’s not having the capacity anymore to deal with (everything), which I think can happen to any person in any walk of life.”

Ex-England captain Marcus Trescothick quit a tour of India in 2006, initially cited a viral problem, but later said it was related to mental health.

“I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I wasn’t aware of depression but whatever was going on, I didn’t want to have to say anything about it on TV,” Trescothick told Men’s Health magazine in 2016. “I was terrified.

“There was a lot of naivety and ignorance. People would say ‘What do you have to be depressed about? You play cricket for England. You travel the world. You get paid well.’ To try and experience the dark place when you’ve never experienced it is very tough.”

England opener Jonathan Trott left an Ashes series in Australia after one test in 2013, saying later he’d struggled in the previous series and didn’t know how to cope.

So-called mental toughness has long been a part of cricket, where sledging — often nasty banter between players — was a fundamental part of the game. That has been changing over the last decade. Cricket Australia has had a full-time sports psychologist working with national teams and player development squads.

Robert Craddock, a long-time cricket analysist and television host in Australia, said cricket was facing a mental health crisis. He said while it may not be a contact sport “its mental challenges, with so much waiting time, are much tougher than they look.”

“Even though cricket is only starting to go public with its mental issues, it has always been a supremely demanding mental game,” Craddock wrote in a column for News Corp. “The victory of the current crisis is that at least players are talking.

“If the current issues have taught us anything it is that success and failure can sometimes have little to do with it, and that the causes of the anguish are many and varied.”

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News Cricket

Anil Kumble clicks tigress ‘Maya’ fighting with rival to save her territory

Tarun Singh Updated: 29 November, 2019, 12:41 PM IST


The humble, Anil Kumble was not only one of the deadliest spinners of his time, but he is also the founder of the ‘Jumbo foundation’ which primarily focuses on wildlife conservation. Former India captain Kumble, who is passionate about wildlife photography, tweeted a sequence of pictures depicting a fight between two tigresses.

The images show ‘Maya’, the most popular and crowd puller tigress of Tadoba Andhari Tiger Reserve in Chandrapur district of Maharashtra.

Kumble in his tweet explained that ‘Maya’ the tigress was battling with another tigress to save her territory.

Kumble Tweeted, “I had a once in a lifetime sighting of Maya the tigress in #Tadoba, who was protecting her territory from another tigress. The sequence of pictures shared depicts the ferocious chase that culminated in a fight and a civilised way of asking the intruder to leave her territory.”

The wildlife enthusiast Kumble replied to his own tweet and shared another picture of the two tigresses standing face to face and also revealed that the moments were captured in May 2019.

The fans on Twitter have applauded Anil Kumble for always standing-tall for conserving and protecting the majestic-beast Tiger. The fans also praised Anil Kumble’s stunning photography skills.

News Cricket

42% Indians will cancel their honeymoon for cricket finale – Survey

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 5:35 PM IST


Cricket fanatics in India can do anything for their beloved sport. We have seen fans worshiping cricketers like their respective gods. A recent survey has revealed the passionate level of Indian fans.

According to the survey, 42 percent of Indian fans would cancel their honeymoon if it is on the day of some big finale. As per the report, 44 percent Indian sports fans are all set to watch their national team or favourite player playing in an international tournament within the next year.

Moreover, 88 percent of cricket fans believed that they will see their team or player win a big event in the next four years. 41 percent of Indians are ready to lose their jobs rather than missing a historic sporting finale.

The fans came in large numbers during the pink-ball Test between India and Bangladesh at the iconic Eden Gardens.

News Cricket

Rohit Sharma a big hit among advertisers, expects to earn Rs 73-75 crore from 22 brands

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 5:34 PM IST


Rohit Sharma is one of the best batsmen in international cricket. The right-hand batsman is scoring runs for fun in the ongoing year. While he was the highest run-getter in the last edition of the World Cup in England and Wales, Rohit has made a sudden mark as an opener in Whites. According to a report in Economic Times, his exceptional form has not gone unnoticed. The limited-overs vice-captain is in great demand among the brands. He has been signed by ten new brands taking his overall tally to 22.

“The brand Rohit Sharma has seamlessly evolved over the last few years and has created a niche market for itself. His on field performance has rapidly advanced and complimented to our off-field strategy, offering a very exciting option for brands,” said Nikhil Bardia, head of sponsorship sales at IMG-Reliance as quoted by Economic Times.

He is now expected to earn Rs 73-75 Crore from the total 22 brands that he endorses.

News Cricket

Dhoni could return to play for India if both Pant and Samson fail to impress – VVS Laxman

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 5:32 PM IST


MS Dhoni has not given any affirmative answer on his possible return to international cricket. When he was asked about his future plans, he dogged the question. "January tak mat poocho (don't ask me till January)," said Dhoni.

Meanwhile, VVS Laxman feels that the former skipper could only return to play for India again if both Pant and Samson failed to impress.

"I think MS Dhoni will wait with patience to see the performance of Rishabh Pant and Sanju Samson. Whenever he gets an opportunity and he will take a call after the IPL because the way I am seeing it, MS Dhoni is preparing himself for the IPL. I'm sure he will do well like he has done whenever he plays and leads CSK," said Laxman about Dhoni's future.

"If both these youngsters don't grab their opportunities, probably there is a thought that MS Dhoni can come back provided he shows that form in the IPL leading up to the World Cup.

"At the moment Rishabh Pant would be the first choice, his back up would be Sanju Samson and if both these youngsters don't grab these opportunities then you can probably look at MS Dhoni, keeping mind how he performs in the IPL," he added.

News Cricket

Shastri gets trolled again after he posts pictures with 'one of India's greatest' Anil Kumble

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:37 PM IST


Cricket fans are after Ravi Shastri. No matter what he does, fans find one way or another to mock him. The Indian head coach shared two pictures with for coach Kumble and wrote: “Great to catch up with one of India’s greatest – Anil Kumble". He was instantly trolled by keyboard warriors.

Kumble had to leave the post of India's head coach after his differences with Virat Kohli and was replaced by Ravi Shastri. In the picture shared by Shastri, he can be seen laughing with Kumble and India's batting coach Vikram Rathore.

Ravi Shastri expressed his satisfaction after Virat Kohli-led team defeated Bangladesh in the first-ever day-night Test match in India. He spoke about the performance of players.

"For me, the intensity shown by this team is fabulous. The way they have bounced back after those 15 minutes in Manchester. That was a bitter pill to swallow and hurt one and all. But then, the ferocity and intensity they have shown after that in the last three months is unbelievable. This is remarkable and that is why I say if you look back 5-6 years, this will have to be one of the most consistent Indian teams ever across all formats."

News Cricket

MS Dhoni reveals the top two moments of his international career

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:36 PM IST


Former India skipper MS Dhoni, who is on a break from cricket, has picked the best two moments of his international career. According to him, the reception his team got after its T20 World Cup Victory and the chanting of ‘Vande Mataram’ during the finale of the 2011 World Cup, will always be close to his heart.

“There are two incidents I would like to mention over here. So after the 2007 (T20) World Cup, we came back to India and had an open bus ride and we were standing at the Marine Drive (in Mumbai). It was jam-packed all around and people had come out of their cars,” said Dhoni.

“So, I felt good after seeing the smile on everyone’s face. Because, there could have been so many people in the crowd, who might have missed their flights, perhaps they were going for important work. The kind of reception, we got, the entire Marine Drive was full from one end to other.”

The other moment was from the 2011 World Cup final.

“And the second instance I would say the 2011 World Cup final, in that match when 15-20 runs were required, the way all the spectators started chanting ‘Vande Mataram’ at the Wankhede Stadium.

“These are two moments, I think, it will be very difficult to replicate them. Those are the two moments that are very close to my heart,” added Dhoni.

News Cricket

'Make late night baby-sitting arrangements': Gambhir on Tim Paine's Challenge to Virat Kohli

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:34 PM IST


Tim Paine, the Aussie skipper, went on to challenge Virat Kohli for a day-night Test match in Australia. He was speaking after Australia's victory over Pakistan at the Gabba. Meanwhile, former India cricketer Gautam Gambhir has given his reaction on the topic. He wants Virat Kohli to accept the challenge.

“I like the way Australia skipper Tim Paine has “flighted” one for India captain Virat Kohli, challenging him to play a day-night fixture on the next tour Down Under,” Gambhir wrote in his column for Times of India. “Knowing Virat he is not the one to back out. And why should he?

“A day-night Test match between India and Australia at Brisbane or the MCG will be quite a spectacle. And you can trust Aussies to make it a truly memorable game by some smart marketing.

“I haven’t seen Virat’s response for Paine but if I was him I would have straight away told him to make some late night babysitting arrangements as we were ready!!!,” he added.

India will tour Australia in November 2020. “Yeah, well, we’ll be certainly trying. We’ll have to run that by Virat (Kohli),” Paine had said. “We’ll get an answer from him at some stage I’m sure. This is where we like to start our summer, and it has been for a long, long time except for last summer. So as I said, we’ll ask Virat. See if we can get his permission to play here. And maybe even get a pink-ball Test if he’s in a good mood.”

News Cricket

Yasir Shah reveals the chat he and other players had with Indian Taxi driver who refused fare

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:33 PM IST


Pakistan players were taken to an Indian restaurant by one of the taxi drivers. However, he refused to charge them. The players, who are playing in the ongoing Test series against Australia, decided to treat him for his gesture. In a video, shared by the governing body of Pakistan cricket, Yasir Shah has revealed the nature of their chat with the Indian driver.

"On our first day in Brisbane, we didn't know where there was an Indian or Pakistani restaurant. So when the five of us stepped out - Imran Khan, me, Naseem Shah, Musa and Shaheen Shah - we saw a cab and hailed it," Yasir Shah said in the video.

"We saw he was a 'Paa ji' from India. So we spoke to him in Urdu and asked him to take us to a nice restaurant," he added.

"He recognised us and chatted with us about cricket and about him," the spinner continued.

"When we reached, he refused to take our fare," Yasir Shah said.

"So I told him if you are not taking our fare, you have to join us for dinner," Shah said.

"He agreed to the dinner and sat with us. He was very happy that we offered him dinner and clicked pictures with us," he concluded.

Feature Cricket

Steve Smith-Yasir Shah duel should make for an intriguing scenario

Partab Ramchand Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:31 PM IST


Steve Smith endured a rare failure during the first Test against Pakistan at Brisbane last week and going by his awesome record that can be taken as an aberration and he should be back among the runs in the second Test at Adelaide starting on Friday. But what has made the scenario absolutely intriguing is the fact that Smith is even more determined to get a big score in keeping with his lofty reputation after Yasir Shah’s gesture at the Gabba.

Coming in at 351 for two on the third morning after David Warner, Joe Burns, Marnus Labuschagne had already put Australia well in command Smith was perhaps not as focused as he normally is and a trimming leg break from Yasir disturbed his stumps when he had scored but four runs. An overjoyed Yasir then showed four fingers and a thumb of one hand and two fingers of the other hand indicating that it was the seventh time that he had dismissed Smith. It was a pretty haughty celebration and one that Smith has made a particular note of. He has since admitted that Yasir’s gesture had raised his competitive ire. ``I am motivated, particularly after he put his fingers up,’’ Smith has been quoted as saying. ``I am not going to be giving away my wicket easily this time. I actually didn’t even know that he had gotten me out seven times.’’

So even as the teams square off in the day/night encounter at the Adelaide Oval the Yasir – Smith duel will be the one most fans will be eagerly looking forward to. Arguably the best orthodox leg spinner today versus the outstanding batsman in the contemporary game is the stuff that dreams are made off even if Yasir has paid out 73 runs for each of the 12 wickets he has taken in Australia in four Tests.

Apart from the Smith – Yasir duel interest will centre round whether Pakistan have it in them to square the series at Adelaide after losing 13 straight Tests Down Under. Their last victory came about in 1995-96 and it will be difficult to turn things around after suffering an innings defeat in four days at the Gabba even with the expected return of Imam-ul-Haq and Mohammed Abbas. The Australians have no selection problems, are humming as a unit and it would be a major surprise if they do not wrap up the two-match series at Adelaide.

News Cricket

Indian fast bowlers are not here to just rough up the ball for spinners anymore - Umesh Yadav

Tarun Singh Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:28 PM IST


The time for Indian cricket is surely changing with the rise of the Indian pace-attack. The Indian pace brigade with the likes of Umesh Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, and Ishant Sharma have tasted phenomenal success in the last three years.

Without the premier fast bowler Bumrah, the Indian pace trio of Yadav, Shami, and Ishant have taken 59 out of 96 wickets in the home season this year.

Umesh Yadav, who recently played a key role in trouncing Bangladesh in the pink-ball Test in Kolkata, seemed happy with the performance of fast bowlers.

“It feels nice when people talk about fast bowlers. People earlier talked about spinners when we played at home. They assumed the pitch would start taking turn early. Fast bowlers usually bowled with the new ball and were brought back when there was reverse swing on offer. Our job was to roughen up the ball for the spinners. Spinners even started with the new ball,” he said.

Indian fast bowlers have broken the stereotype that only spinners can take wickets in the home conditions. In the last Test against ‘Bangla Tigers’ Indian pace-attack snapped 19 wickets and the spinners could not even take a single wicket.

“It is satisfying to know that now we are looked at as bowlers who could bowl all day. When this crop of fast bowlers came together, all five of us decided we are not here to just rough up the ball for spinners. We started thinking wickets. This ensured we got the new ball,” Yadav further added.

News Cricket

VVS Laxman warns Rishabh Pant, says perform or lose place to Sanju Samson

Tarun Singh Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:27 PM IST


Former India batsman VVS Laxman came out with a warning message for the struggling wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant. Laxman believes it’s high time for Pant to perform, otherwise, he will lose his place to Sanju Samson.

“The team management and the selection committee have passed on a strong message that we got a backup in the form of Sanju Samson. Rishabh Pant has been given a lot of opportunities and I'm sure that they will be communicating and giving him that security within that group.

“But then ultimately the player has to justify the faith the team management, the selection committee has been imposing on him.”

The explosive Indian wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant is going through a lean patch in his international cricket career. The selectors have backed Rishabh Pant despite several poor performances with bat and gloves till now. But Sanju Samson's inclusion in the squad is an alarming sign for Pant to perform or perish.

Laxman applauded Pant’s abilities, but also feels that he is playing under pressure to avoid his exclusion from the team.

“Unfortunately, Rishabh hasn't been able to do that, but he is that X factor. I still feel that he is an exclusive batsman who can come and change the course of the match just by his ability to hit good balls out of the park,” he said.

"As a batsman - there's no clarity of thoughts, there's no doubt that he's under pressure, because how many times have you seen Rishabh Pant, when he is in full flow, play and he has a different mindset and technique against the spinners. I feel he will be under tremendous pressure to retain his place in the playing eleven,” Laxman further added.

Feature Cricket

Gayle and Dhoni Pick and Choose

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 28 November, 2019, 3:26 PM IST


On the heels of the news that Mahendra Singh Dhoni has no plans to return to the international game until January at the very least, Chris Gayle announced he was taking an indefinite break for the rest of 2019.

Senior cricketers earn the right to decide their fate. That is the fallacy that has abounded even if the cricketer himself has silly dallied, unsure of whether to stay in the reckoning by playing the international game or retire and earn his perks by playing in the plethora of Twenty20 clubs around the world.

Dhoni has been in scrutiny for some time pending the announcement of his retirement and if not, then showing up for training and matches for the team as part of being a contracted player.

Dhoni was not in great form in the course of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019. That led to a big on going debate about whether carrying Dhoni into the world cup was the right move.

Similarly Chris Gayle has had a lop sided year in terms of runs. While he has recently played in the South Africa's Mzansi Cup, after taking back his retirement statement prior to the World Cup in England in July, he is now turning down the West Indies offer to play one day internationals in India, claiming he wants time to think about the future and his goals for 2020.

While arguably Dhoni has had a more solid relationship with team India, the question does arise about the privilege of time out accorded to senior cricketers on the team and no steady policy irrespective of their form.

When these players do make themselves available, as they did for the World Cup, they are expected to not only make the team but also, walk in on past reputation while the rest of the players have to earn their place on merit.

Neither player has ruled himself out of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup next year.

It seems irresponsible that young cricketers are being asked to fill in the gaps but the opportunity pulled from under them - with time and consistency of selection would be greater allies for the team, and the senior cricketers can continue to you with the game plan and selection policy.

News Cricket

"January Tak Mat Poocho": MS Dhoni on his possible return to international cricket

Tarun Singh Updated: 28 November, 2019, 2:58 PM IST


Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni answered one of the questions on his ongoing sabbatical and comeback to International cricket by saying, “Don't ask me till January”.

But Dhoni’s comment, “January tak mat poocho (don't ask me till January),” is being seen as a hint of his possible comeback to international cricket.

Dhoni is on a self-imposed break and has been missing from action since Team India’s exit from the World cup in England.

Dhoni’s much-awaited comeback in International cricket has been a matter of intense debate on social media and in the cricket fraternity.

The 38-year-old, who rarely discloses his plans, chose to duck the question again about his future in International cricket but left a hint of his comeback. This hint will give a ray of hope to his millions of fans who are eagerly waiting for his comeback.

A source close to MS Dhoni said that Dhoni will decide about his future after the Indian Premier League (IPL) next year.

India head coach Ravi Shastri had said that Dhoni’s fate in International cricket will be decided after looking at Dhoni’s performance in the IPL.

“It all depends on when he starts playing and how he is playing during the IPL. What are the other people doing with the wicket-keeping gloves or what is the form of those players as opposed to Dhoni's form. The IPL becomes a massive tournament because that could be the last tournament after which more or less your 15 are decided”.

The new BCCI president Sourav Ganguly had applauded MS Dhoni by saying, “You know champions don't finish quickly”.

However, on a different note, the head of the selection panel MSK Prasad had said that they have “moved on” from MS Dhoni and will back Delhi lad Rishabh Pant over him.

The two-time World Cup winning captain MS Dhoni will lead Chennai Super Kings in (IPL) 2020.

News Cricket

Virat goes on a movie date with hottie Anushka Sharma

Staff Writer Updated: 28 November, 2019, 12:49 PM IST


Indian skipper Virat Kohli is spending quality time with better half Anushka Sharma. The 31-year old player was exceptional in the last Test series against Bangladesh where he scored a well compiled hundred in the second Test match of the series. He was welcomed by Anushka after he landed in Mumbai. The duo went for a movie on Wednesday night. Virat Kohli took to social media to post a picture with his wifey and wrote, “About last night. At the movies with this hottie @AnushkaSharma".

The leading Bollywood actress also shared a picture on her Instagram handle and captioned it, "Movie Night".

India have performed well under Virat Kohli's able leadership. The sub-continent team is leading the points table in the World Test Championship. The number one ranked team has won seven consecutive matches and is on a roll at the moment. India's next Test assignment will be against New Zealand in 2020.

Meanwhile, Virat Kohli is the number two ranked batsman in Whites. His fabulous ton against Bangladesh has brought him closer to Steve Smith, the number one ranked player, in terms of points.

Feature Cricket

The Call to Highlight Test Cricket

Sreelata S Yellamrazu Updated: 28 November, 2019, 10:32 AM IST


It takes a powerful voice to raise the long standing grouse against cricket boards and angst on behalf of Test cricket. With Virat Kohli now throwing his weight behind the day format, it remains to be seen whether it can make a much needed impact.

The first ever day and night Test cricket match on Indian soil was a spectacular success from the point of view of the result in India's favour. Notwithstanding the quality of the opposition, such similar statements as the above fell right in with the unusual hype and showdown slated for the Eden Gardens in Kolkata.

While dignitaries graced the occasion and former cricketers were paraded for and in good measure, tickets subsidized for this rare affair, the fact remained that novelty played a huge factor in attracting the numbers it did.

Not until the game is a few matches in will it become evident how pliable day and night Test cricket. And what happens when the novelty wears off? Will day and night Test cricket end the way of the traditional Test cricket that has been handed a step motherly treatment in terms of being actively promoted and marketed.

The point was not lost on the captain of the team currently topping the points table of the ICC World Test championship. While praising the initiative of day and night Tests, Virat Kohli emphasized once more the need to make Test cricket in its traditional avatar more accessible to the public through similar ticketing costs, interactive to get fans involved and marketed and hype in similar fashion in the lead up the Kolkata Test between India and Bangladesh.

If nothing, the first day and night Test in India has highlighted yet again the need to do more to keep Test cricket on the radar. That it has found a powerful contemporary voice in cricket should only push the agenda in that direction.