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‘Glenn Maxwell has set the right example’ – Kohli speaks out for mental health care

by Wisden Staff 3 minute read

Glenn Maxwell, and all the cricketers dealing with mental health challenges, found an advocate in India captain Virat Kohli, who said their decision to step away from the game should be respected.

Kohli remembered his own unsettled state of mind during the England tour of 2014, when he felt it was “the end of the world”, and backed processes for players to feel empowered to communicate about their troubles.

In 2014, he was left horribly exposed by James Anderson, and struggled for runs in the Tests, averaging just 13.50. “I just didn’t know what to do, what to say to anyone, how to speak, how to communicate,” he told presspersons on Wednesday, November 13, ahead of the first Test against Bangladesh. “And to be honest, there wasn’t [anyone].

“I couldn’t have said, ‘I’m not feeling great mentally, and I need to get away from the game.’ Because you never know how that’s taken.”

In recent months, the boards of Australia and England have been at the forefront of dealing with players’ mental health. In just the past two years, Moises Henriques, Nicole Bolton, Maxwell, Nic Maddinson, Sarah Taylor and Will Pucovski have gone public with their issues, choosing to step away from the game.

“What Glenn has done is remarkable. He’s set the right example for cricketers all over the world that if you’re not in the best frame of mind, you try, you try, you try, but as human beings, you reach the tipping point at some stage or the other, and you need time away from the game – not to say you give up, but to gain more clarity – you tend to take a bit more space,” said Kohli. “It’s quite acceptable, and a nice to thing to do when you’re not able to carry on anymore. These things should be respected, and not taken in the negative way at all.”

In India, mental health issues still carry a stigma. A recent World Health Organisation report that said 7.5 per cent of the Indian population suffers from some form of mental disorder, but the treatment gap is over 70 per cent. The Indian cricket captain’s insistence that conversation about it be normalised is timely.

“I think these things should be of great importance,” Kohli added. “If you think that a player is important enough for the team, for Indian cricket, to go forward, I think they should be looked after. When you get to this stage, when you get to the international stage, every player that is in the squad needs that communication and that ability to just speak out.

“I’m absolutely for it … It’s very difficult for anyone to figure out what is going on in another person’s mind.”

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