Michael Yardy - lessons learnt?

The sudden departure of England all-rounder from Cricket World Cup due to depression has brought into sharp focus the huge pressures on international cricketers.

    The sudden departure of England all-rounder Michael Yardy from the Cricket World Cup because of depression has brought into sharp focus the huge pressures that are placed on international cricketers, and the resulting stigma and ignorance that is still attached to the issue.

    I was at a press conference given by the Sri Lankan batsman Mahela Jayawardene when he was asked by an Indian journalist why it was that South Asian cricketers were so much tougher than their English counterparts, who kept pulling out of tours for mental health reasons.

    This was also a pointed reference to Marcus Trescothick, another England player who withdrew from the 2006-07 Ashes Tour for stress-related issues.

    Former England batsman Geoffrey Boycott was also initially scornful of Yardy's departure saying that it was his critical comments of Yardy's bowling that had upset him.

    To his credit when told about the player's illness, Boycott told the BBC: "It's obviously very sad, but I'm not a medical man, so I can't tell you what it's like to be depressed."

    Yardy's captain Andrew Strauss called Boycott's comments disappointing, adding: "It's a horrible thing to go through, he's been managing it for a while but it's obviously got too much. There's a limit to what you as teammates can do to help because one is most afflicted when you're on your own in your room."

    There's little doubt that there is still a long way to go before depression is regarded as an illness like any other.

    Mark Davies, who works for the pressure group Rethink Mental Illness, in an interview with the UK newspaper The Independent, said: "Mike Yardy deserves great credit for saying so clearly and honestly why he's leaving the tour is because of the illness he's struggling with. It will also have meant a lot to other sufferers who don't feel they can talk about it because of the stigma that is still attached."

    So why did Yardy succumb? Was it, as some have suggested England's intense (northern hemisphere) winter schedule? Yardy had been away since early November - nearly five months - with just a four-day break back at home.

    The England and Wales Cricket Board have been roundly criticised for England's packed winter tour.

    The hope is that they will look more closely at the stress and strain they are placing on their employees.

    You do however get the sense that we have been here before and that it is unlikely anything will be done. 

    Here's a quote I found about the issue:

    "It gives me no pleasure to say this, but with the amount of time we are away from home and the amount of cricket we are playing, there is going to be a price to pay and a casualty. Somebody at the height of his powers is going to prematurely lose his career, not through injury but mental stress."

    That was former England fast bowler Steve Harmison talking back in 2006 about teammate Marcus Trescothick. Lessons learnt? Obviously not.


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