After an international career that could be best described as useful, former England all-rounder Ronnie Irani’s life post cricket has been more than meaningful. Irani spends his time these days helping those suffering from alcohol addiction and depression, notable among them being England football’s eternal problem child, Paul Gascoigne.
Irani, whose England career spanned three Tests and 31 ODIs, is a familiar name with Indian supporters as he got the wickets of Rahul Dravid and Dinesh Mongia in the Natwest Trophy final in 2002.
Now 47, the chairman of cricket at Essex county is a successful businessman, but his life’s calling is to help those suffering from mental problems.
“I have been involved with a few things after cricket. I am chairman of cricket Essex but my life is involved in helping people suffering from specific physical and mental condition,” Irani told PTI during an interview.
He was initially uncomfortable speaking about it but then revealed how, along with close friend Chris Evans, a UK-based DJ, he funded Gascoigne’s alcohol addiction treatment in the United States.
“I love football and a very close friend of mine DJ Chris Evans spoke one afternoon and saw what situation Paul was in. We felt that it was worth certainly to help him because he was such a great footballer. We thought, in such times, we should make an effort to help him,” Irani said.
“It’s been my nature to help people and I have been like that throughout my life. We sort of got involved and tried helping Paul,” he added.
However, he says people must understand that for someone like Gascoigne, who is battling addiction for a long time, it would always be an “up and down” road.
“Guess everyone knows that and certainly from our aspect, hopefully he could be in a good position,” Irani seemed hopeful of one of England’s greatest talent who never realised his full potential.
Irani, though, is no longer in touch with Gascoigne as he never felt any need for that.
“I am not in touch with Paul anymore but he has got a solid group of people around to help him.
“We did what we needed to do at that time. It has gone under the radar, from my perspective, any human being with decent nature will help and certainly I did that,” said Irani, who now runs a company called Orthosole, which manufactures insoles of sports shoes.
From Gascoigne, the discussion veered towards Robin Smith, one of England’s finest players through the late 1980’s till the mid 90’s, and Irani felt sad.
Smith recently spoke about alcoholism and depression post retirement and going bankrupt.
“Robin is a fantastic guy who has had his issues over time. When we talk about depression, everyone can relate to those issues. Not only I have noticed that with lot of people in sports but I have also noticed that in everyday life,” said Irani.
Having played sport at the highest level, Irani could relate to issues related to depression and mental health, including anxiety, which sportsmen experienced once their playing career got over.
“I think depression has been there for many, many years. I think there are many things that highlight depression,” said Irani on the sidelines of a panel discussion.
Talking specifically about sportspersons, Irani pointed out a few issues that could cause problems.
“Glare of media, handling pressure situations, pride of performance and expectation and demands of public. Back in the time when I started, if you became professional sportsperson, you were considered a success. But there wasn’t a support mechanism there in earlier times,” he said.
“People who are going through major issues of life, all you can do is to give them a helping hand.”