Jonathan Trott – it’s pretty straightforward.
It’s been more than a little disappointing to read Trott being accused of being a bottler or a quitter after his interviews in which has said he wasn’t depressed – he was burnt out and exhausted.
At the time, the ECB described it as a “stress-related illness” and one that he had battled with for some time.
Perhaps, with hindsight, it would have been better to describe what Trott was suffering from a little more clearly and accurately. The term “stress-related illness” is interpreted as a serious mental illness which could range from depression to anxiety to a full on breakdown.
In reality, what Trott was suffering from was mental and physical exhaustion which rendered him unable to play to the high standards he expected of himself and that we had come to expect from him. He and the ECB medics took the decision that he needed a break from cricket and he needed to come home.
I spoke to a GP friend to ask what he would do if someone came to him describing the symptoms that Trott has said he was suffering from. He said that almost certainly he would sign the person off work for a while to start with and see if rest and a break resulted in recovery. If it didn’t, he would investigate whether a more serious mental illness was the cause and then recommend appropriate treatment.
That’s quite pertinent – Trott leaving Oz was the equivalent of you or I being signed off work by the GP for a bit. Where’s the controversy there? It happens daily to hundreds of people in the country.
The notion that Trott was scared of fast bowling is, quite frankly, ridiculous and something cited by people who’ve clearly forgotten the years when Trott has been very successful against fast bowling. Short memories by some.
Trott was mentally and physically exhausted. It had rendered him incapable of being able to play cricket or cope with the pressure of the international sporting arena. In some part, the ECB must take some blame for this. What we expect of our cricketers is ridiculous. It’s too much. It’s a serious miracle that more of them aren’t burnt out.
It is surely a braver decision to admit that you’re struggling and that you need a break than to try and guts it out in a macho bravado way. In the male sporting environment, it’s not easy to admit a weakness. It takes some guts to hold your hands up and say “it’s no good, I’m going to have to stop”. This applies to Graeme Swann’s retirement as much as it does to Trott’s decision to quit the tour.
It’s not a weakness, it’s brave. It goes against the grain of the testosterone filled macho environment of the sporting world.
It’s here I have to declare an interest. I struggle to be entirely objective when discussing Jonathan Trott for this reason.
Earlier in the year, a great friend and the owner of SPIN cricket magazine, was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given weeks to live. Jonathan wrote this friend a very personal, hand written letter. I won’t divulge the contents as they were personal. But despite everything that was going on with Jonathan at the time, he found the time and the compassion to write a heartfelt letter and make a phone call and in our friend’s darkest hour – when he was dying – Jonathan brought some light and a smile.
Trott is a straightforward and honest man. Cricket is and has been his life – to his own detriment. There’s no conspiracy here. There’s no hidden agenda. There was no attempted. cover up of a man quitting cos he couldn’t hack it.
It really is very straightforward. Trott was exhausted – mentally and physically. He’d burnt out and stress was a factor. If he’d been a “normal” person, he’d have gone to the doctor and the doctor would have signed him off work for a bit. How is this any different?
It isn’t. He had some time off to rest and recuperate. And now he’s ready to get back in the saddle.
He hasn’t assumed that he will walk straight back into the England team – he has merely thrown his hat into the ring for selection. He knows that he needs to demonstrate to the selectors and the public that he’s back firing with the bat and inside his head. He wants to do that.
It’s really not sinister – it’s a simple thing.
The ECB may want to think about how he got into that state in the first place and whether they way they described things to the media and public at the time was the correct way but Jonathan himself has nothing to feel guilty or sorry about.
It’s disappointing that some are so ready to cast stones.