David Miller’s recent remarks are a timely reminder that South African cricket is not exempt from mental health struggles.
‘I have taken some time off over the last couple of months. I have been in the Kruger National Park recently to just get away from the demands of the game,’ said Miller, prior to returning for the Durban Heat in the Mzansi Super League.
‘It’s really important to look after your mental state during your career and it is something that moving forward I am going to pay a lot more attention to.
‘Cricket is a sport that so much can go against you that you need to have time to reflect. Hopefully I still have a lot of years left playing cricket, but I want to make sure that I look after myself mentally.’
Miller’s move was effectively pre-emptive, while Australians Nic Maddinson, Glenn Maxwell and Will Pucovski’s recent decisions to take a break from the game were reactive. Both are right, governed by condition and circumstance.
Gone are the days of ignorantly poking fun at the likes of England’s Marcus Trescothick, Jonathan Trott, Steve Harmison and others for psychological battles. Recognising, understanding and allowing international cricketers to grapple with mental well-being is the new normal.
Maxwell’s indefinite hiatus is particularly telling. Like Miller, Maxwell’s character and cricket is filled with bravado. For a player of his public profile to be ‘proactive in identifying these issues’ is an important battle won within the proverbial war.
For Indian captain Virat Kohli – another cricketer with respected machismo – to publicly condone Maxwell’s choice is equally important.
‘I think what Glenn has done is remarkable. It will 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 and try. I think, as human beings, you reach a tipping point at some stage you need some time away from the game,’ said Kohli.
While Miller’s comments weren’t primarily referencing the problems Maxwell, Maddinson and more are weathering, the secondary result might cue more South African cricketers to speak up – proactively rather than unreadily.
And in a personal and professional landscape directly and subconsciously influenced by Cricket South Africa’s misgivings and the Proteas’ shortfalls, the psychological prosperity of individuals must be protected.