Jonathan Trott’s On The Mend, No Thanks To The Sceptics

OF all the reactions to the publication of Coming Back To Me, the autobiography of Marcus Trescothick, the one that keeps coming back to me was contained in a review in The Times by former England skipper Mike Atherton, and this passage in particular.

Atherton wrote of his one-time opening partner: “He (Trescothick) recalls his four-star imprisonment in a hotel where images kept flashing through his brain: ‘What was happening at home? Was Hayley (his wife) OK? Was Ellie (his daughter) all right?

“‘Oh God, what if something happened to Ellie and she needed my help and I wasn’t there… Oh God I should be there. What the hell am I doing here? What the hell is happening? When will it stop? Will it stop at all? Am I actually, here and now, in this room, going mad?’”

“There is lots of this,” the multi-award winning Atherton commented, “enough to bring on depression in itself, especially if The Smiths are playing in the background.”

Another former colleague made so many jokes about Marcus’ story (demons in his bedroom? I’ve had a few of those in my time being the most memorable and the most public) that you feared for his own sanity.

Those who have suffered from depressive illness, those who are suffering now and those close to them have heard this kind of thing before and, while it is obviously hilarious to those fortunate enough never to have been brushed by the black wings of depression, for those who have it feels like a dagger to the heart.

While sufferers will be aware of moments of black humour, there is nothing remotely funny about it, nor are its victims aided in any way by any attempts to treat it as anything less than the dangerous illness it is.

And while waiting for Jonathan Trott first to talk publicly about the issues that forced him home from the Ashes nightmare, then attempt his comeback in Warwickshire’s pre-season fixture against Gloucestershire at Edgbaston on April 1, I draw attention to the above for this reason.

A lot has been said and written about Trott’s early departure, some of it informed, and much of it, thanks primarily to the courage of Trescothick in laying bare his soul back in 2008 –even though he knew how some, like Atherton for instance, might react –appropriately supportive and sympathetic, another reason why Marcus was so right to open himself up. The Professional Cricketers Association has done great work in shining a light into the problems of their past and present members.

England batsman Jonathan Trott
England batsman Jonathan Trott

The numbers of those who contact their confidential helplines underlines not only the scale of the current problem but also how many past players must have suffered in silence in the days when such things were simply not spoken of.

Yet some may also be aware of a disturbing undercurrent of scepticism as regards what Trott experienced, alarmingly reminiscent of the old prejudices, which holds the following to  be the real truth in his case.

Trott, on the verge of burnout after pretty much non-stop cricket since he made his brilliant debut century against Australia at the Oval in 2009, was first unsettled by the bowling of Mitchell Johnson in the one-day international series that followed last summer’s Ashes victory.

When Johnson got at him again in the first Test of the return series at the Gabba, he cracked. David Warner might have crossed the line when he spoke of England’s batsmen having scared eyes and describing the way Trott got out in his second innings as “pretty poor and weak”.

But while there is no evidence that Warner was aware of whatever turmoil Trott was going through at the time and he was quick to apologise when he found out, those who are inclined to see things in black and white believe all they need to know is contained in those two words – poor and weak.

Happily, Trott does appear to be well on the mend, and Trescothick, though admitting that every day has to be taken on its own, can also smile again.

But while wishing Trott all the luck in the world as he attempts to take the next steps on his road, it is surely right to plead with all concerned not to expect too much from him too soon and to reassure him that the overriding priority is not England’s clear need to have their dependable No.3 back as soon as possible but for his own health and well-being.

And a look at another passage from Marcus’ book might not go amiss. “As for the lessons, I don’t profess to be any expert on my own case, let alone anyone else’s, but a few things have stuck: that depression is an illness not weak- ness, and that it can be cured, but that you may not be able to beat it just because you want to. That is what doctors and counsellors and medical science is for, so trust them.

“I also learned to seek help first and worry about what people might think of you later. And I learned not to be so quick to judge.”

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