Former Australia captain Ian Chappell on Thursday said the burgeoning issue of mental health, forcing active players into sabbaticals, has reached “almost epidemic proportions” in his country and urged the cricket board to immediately address the matter.
Young Victorian batsman Will Pucovski has become the third Australian cricketer to report mental health problems to the team management in just over two weeks after international stars Glenn Maxwell and Nic Maddinson both took breaks from the game.
Pucovski has withdrawn from the reckoning for the first Test against Pakistan, citing mental health issues, as CA looks to get a grip on the situation.
“It’s a helluva problem. It’s almost epidemic proportions,” Chappell told local radio station ‘3AW’.
“It’s all well and good to be saying it’s very courageous of these guys to come out and speak and yes, it is brave, but Cricket Australia has got to get to the bottom of what’s causing this,” the 76-year-old Australian great said.
Pucovski, who had taken two breaks to deal with his mental health last summer, has informed Australia A team management that he is struggling, days ahead of the Test series against Pakistan.
Pucovski, who hit 243 for Victoria in a Sheffield Shield game against Western Australia last year, also withdrew from the Test squad against Sri Lanka last February for the same reason.
CA’s head of national teams Ben Oliver applauded Pucovski “for having the courage to discuss his situation”.
“Will’s decision not to nominate for Test selection was the right one in the circumstances and one that everyone in the Australian cricket family supports,” he said in a statement.
“By Will bravely taking this position, he will undoubtedly inspire others facing similar challenges to speak up and take positive steps towards improving their mental wellbeing.”
The issue has gained significance with many prominent voices like India captain Virat Kohli speaking about the mental struggles of a top-flight player.
Asked about Maxwell’s self-imposed break from the game, Kohli on Wednesday offered his support and said it was “remarkable” of the dashing Australian all-rounder to admit mental health issues. Kohli recalled a phase in his own career when he too battled “end of the world” thoughts but didn’t know how to even communicate them.
Maxwell, who has played 110 one-day internationals, 61 T20Is and seven Tests, is on an indefinite break from cricket after pulling out midway through the Twenty20 series against Sri Lanka last month.
Maddinson, who played three Tests in 2016, withdrew from this week’s Australia A match on mental health grounds.
In England, there have been players like Steve Harmison, Marcus Trescothick and Graeme Fowler, who have dealt with depression.