"I was days away from suicide" - Former cricket star on mental health struggles

Robin Smith in action
Robin Smith played more than 60 tests for England. (Credit Getty Images)

Former England batsman Robin Smith has spoken candidly about his battles with addiction and depression, revealing how close he came taking his own life.

Speaking to the Daily Mail, the star nicknamed ‘The Judge’ during his playing days, said he had actually made the decision to kill himself after alcoholism consumed his life after leaving the game.

“It wasn't a case of if I was going to kill myself but when the right time was,” Smith said. “I was days away from doing it because I couldn't cope any longer.”

Smith was in London promoting his autobiography, The Judge, detailing his career as one of England’s more popular players, and the struggles that drove him to the brink of suicide after quitting the game.

“I'd worked hard at visualising bowling when I was a cricketer and now I visualised exactly what I was going to do. I felt quite comfortable about it because I believed it would put a lot of people out of their misery.

“I didn't feel I could ever recover from the things I did or the guilt of losing the respect of my children which is the last thing you want to do as a parent.”

Robin Smith at Hampshire in 1994 (John Gichigi/ALLSPORT)
Robin Smith at Hampshire in 1994 (John Gichigi/ALLSPORT)

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Born in Durban, South Africa, Smith made his England debut against the West Indies in 1988 and went on to play 62 test matches making over 4000 runs.

He played his final test against the country of his birth in 1996 and continued to represent Hampshire until his retirement in 2003.

“Cricket was my life, and even though it was always going to finish at some stage, that doesn't make it any easier to cope with retirement, “Smith lamented. “Once I was no longer involved in that unity of dressing room life I found it very difficult to cope.

“I felt, rightly or wrongly, that I could have had another year or so in the game and it took me a while to get over that.”

After relocating to Australia, ultimately unsuccessful business ventures contributed to Smith’s deteriorating mental health.

“At the time I felt alcohol was the only thing getting me through each day,” he admitted.

“I enjoyed my pints when I played cricket but when I finished I wasn't doing the training and started putting on a bit of weight and that led me into drinking vodka which seemed like a good idea at the time. But then I got into doubles and triples.”

Robin Smith playing for England against the West Indies (Graham Chadwick/ALLSPORT)
Robin Smith playing for England against the West Indies (Graham Chadwick/ALLSPORT)

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Smith reveals that the only thing that prevented him from going ahead with suicide was the support of his son and finding love with his new partner.

“That right time to take my own life was approaching when my son found me crawled up in Barry Richards' apartment. He reminded me I was still loved and that made me think.

“Then I met Karin in the same apartment block where I had gone to live with my parents.

“She didn't know who I was because she had no idea about cricket — and that was good because she wanted to help me for who I was rather than who I used to be. With her help, love and encouragement I've been able to get through it.”

Smith is not the only top level cricketer to suffer from mental health issues.

Former England stars such as Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott have cited stress-related illnesses as reasons to return home from tours, while Andrew Flintoff, Matthew Hoggard, Monty Panesar and Steve Harmison have all admitted struggling with depression at points in their careers.

Smith believes that being open about his problems will help with his ongoing recovery process, as well as hopefully help others facing similar issues.

“I was very concerned about baring my soul to the world because it's hard to let people into my life, the good and the bad. But Karin encouraged me and thought it would be inspiring for anyone with similar issues and cathartic for me to get my problems out there.

“I've got everything off my chest now and I can rub my hands and move on. It's been very good for me to put my soul into these pages.”

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