India captain Virat Kohli feels Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell has set a remarkable example for taking a break from the game to work on his mental health issues, recalling a phase in his own career when he too battled ‘end of the world’ thoughts but didn’t know how to even express it.
The mental health of elite cricketers has come into the spotlight after star cricketer Maxwell took a break to deal with his unspecified problems followed by young batsman Nic Maddinson. In England, there have been players like Steve Harmison, Marcus Trescothick and Graeme Fowler, who have dealt with depression. Sarah Taylor also took breaks from the game during the latter part of her career before announcing retirement.
“You know when you get to the international stage, every player that’s in the squad needs that communication – that ability to speak out. I think what Glenn has done is remarkable,” Kohli said on the eve of the first Test against Bangladesh starting in Indore on Thursday.
“I have gone through a phase in my career where it was the end of the world,” said Kohli. “In England 2014, I just didn’t know what to do, what say to anyone, how to speak, how to communicate. I could have said that I am not feeling great mentally and need to get away from the game. But you never know how that’s taken.”
The Indian captain feels that these issues need to be discussed for a better understanding of what one is going through at a personal level.
“To be very honest, you (journalist) guys have a job to do. We guys have a job to do and everyone is focussed on what we need to do. It is very difficult to figure out what’s going on in another person’s mind,” Kohli said.
Kohli, who has played a lot of cricket against Maxwell at the IPL and international level, said he can understand that things must have reached a tipping point for the Australian.
“He set the right example for cricketers all over the world. If you are not in the best frame of mind, you try, try and try, but as human beings, you reach a tipping point at some stage or the other and you need time,” Kohli said.
In his 11-year-international career, the only phase in which Kohli battled self-doubt was the 2014 tour of England in which he failed to even get a half-century and copped a lot of criticism.
“To be honest, I couldn’t have said that I am not feeling great mentally and I need to get away from the game. Because you never know how that’s taken,” the skipper said, making the point of how difficult it is for people to accept that this could be a serious issue.
In Indian cricket, where the stakes are always high, the cricketers are the ones who should be looked after as they are important, said the skipper.
One of the world’s best players in contemporary times, the 31-year-old feels that it should be acceptable if players feel they need space to deal with their problems.
“Not to say that you give up but just to gain more clarity, you tend to take a bit more space which, in my opinion, is quite acceptable and quite a nice thing to do when you are not able to carry on anymore,” he said.
“I think these things should be respected and not taken in a negative way at all. It’s just not having the capacity to deal with things that can happen to any person to any walk of life. I think it should be taken in a very positive way,” he said.