Saturday, January 03, 2009

Trescothick 'Coming Back to Me'

Review of Marcus Trescothicks excellent and painfully honest autobiography just posted at the Wardman Wire, so go there for the full monty, but here's a snippet:

Firstly, I remove every cricketing hat I’ve ever worn to Trescothick for being so honest. One of the great fears of people with mental illness is what others will think of them if they let on, and having the tabloid press following your every move can’t make things any easier. The book adds to the increasing number of public figures who’ve gone public about mental illness (though Trescothick is careful to remind us that depression is actually a physical illness - perhaps we should call it a chemical illness, since that’s the root basis of it). John Prescott (bulimia) Stephen Fry (bipolar) David Beckham (OCD) - there is a celebrity patron saint for most forms of chemical illness now, and hopefully this signals a cultural shift in the way we deal with these things.

Secondly: it’s clear that Trescothick was broken on the wheel of international cricket. Money has come to dominate the game, as it has in football, and cricket schedules have changed what’s involved in playing for a national side. Most of the 2005 Ashes-winning side have broken down physically (Simon Jones, Ashley Giles, Andrew Flintoff, Michael Vaughan, Steve Harmison), mentally (Trescothick, possibly Harmison again for his touring blues), or suffered a dip in form which was cured primarily by a break from the whole business (Andrew Strauss). You have to ask of others (Bell, Cook) whether they’d score more runs if they played fewer games, and don’t forget to add Ryan Sidebottom, our top bowler of 2008, to the injury list.....

....English players will continue to crack because they no longer get a proper rest. Even if we win the Ashes this summer against an increasingly shaky Australia, enjoy it whilst it lasts, because half of that winning side will be out of action by summer 2010. We’ve known since God created the Sabbath that rest is vital to a sustainable and fruitful life, but both cricket and culture now run as close to empty as they can just in case He got it wrong.

It would be tempting to pass Trescothicks book off as an honest, brave account of something deeply personal, and nothing more. But Trescothick notes that when he told manager Duncan Fletcher the truth for the first time “Duncan even went so far as to raise other instances of players disappearing from the game for reasons that weren’t apparent at the time but which now appeared to him to make perfect sense” (p290). He probably wouldn’t claim this for himself, but the powers that be need to hear this as a warning voice from the professional cricketing community.

And those of us who consume our cricket via Sky need to ask if we’re just the innocent viewing public, or something more. If the likes of Sky couldn’t make money out of televised cricket, they wouldn’t push so hard for more fixtures, or dangle such large sums of money over the various national cricketing bodies. Just as every Google search leaves a carbon footprint, everyone who pays commercially for their televised sport contributes to the culture our sportsmen and women have to play in. If that culture breaks them, who is to blame?

No comments:

Post a Comment