Nick Compton calls for greater focus on mental health in cricket

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The PCA Festival of Cricket at Wormsley Cricket Ground on July 30, 2021 in Stokenchurch,
The PCA Festival of Cricket at Wormsley Cricket Ground on July 30, 2021 in Stokenchurch,

Mental fatigue caused by bio-secure bubbles during the Covid pandemic has been a hot topic in cricket over the last few years, with high-profile players, including England skipper Ben Stokes, taking a break from the game.

Mental health is not a new topic for cricket to deal with, the likes of former England internationals Marcus Trescothick and Jonathan Trott have both suffered from anxiety and depression.

Former England opener Nick Compton, who is an ambassador for the Professional Cricketers’ Association and a regular for the PCA-organised England Legends, believes mental health is a topic that needs continued awareness.

Compton admitted to suffering from anxiety and depression, revealing after being having his position axed from the England Test team, he struggled with his mental health for the next five or six years.

And that is why Compton thinks it is crucial that the work and role the Professional Cricketers’ Trust plays in helping current and former players suffering from depression must be spoken about.

“In many ways when you retire, you’re very quickly out of the game and something I’ve done for a good 20 years and always had the benefit of teammates and a structure around me and I think you’re out of it and you kind of miss that a little bit,” said Compton. “That is why the PCA, and the work the Professional Cricketers’ Trust does is important.

“The two major factors of getting involved with the England Legends is playing with old teammates, reconnecting with guys that I played with and even guys that I looked up to.

“And secondly just trying to support the PCA, they’ve obviously a fantastic organisation, they have always been incredibly supportive and helpful to us as players, the things that they do behind the scenes to try and help.

“I have had some support from them over the years as have many other cricketers, whether that’s injury or education, I think it is important.

“It makes you feel cared for and that there is somebody underneath you if things do not go that well.

“It also keeps me in touch with the game, it is nice to have that again and play in front of a few people.

For me, I think playing for England would be the time where you have got everything you want, or everything you’ve dreamed of. That was the goal.

“I think when you have it and things are going quite well there’s a part of you thinking ‘I do not want to lose this’ and I think your greatest fear sometimes can become the truth and reality.

“That was a time where, having left South Africa as a youngster to come here and follow in Granddad’s footsteps, not having that reassurance and support.

Nick Compton at the PCA Festival of Cricket at Wormsley Cricket Ground
Nick Compton at the PCA Festival of Cricket at Wormsley Cricket Ground

“But of course, there is no reassurance in top level sport. It's one game at a time and you’ve got to stay very focused, and the margins are very fine, and I think sometimes I’ve had some struggles with anxiety growing up, I’ve had some struggles with depression.

“And I have found that it is tough to get the balance right particularly at that level, the little one or two percent can make a big difference between being successful and kissing out on the day.

“You don’t get many opportunities when you’re playing international cricket so of course the pressure is there, and you know that but there were probably just a few times where I got the wrong side of it and it’s a bit of a snowball effect.”

Compton will be watching on this weekend at the Vitality Blast Finals Day, where the tournament will officially support the Professional Cricketers’ Trust for a third year in succession.

The Trust will collaborate with the ECB and Sky Sports to both highlight the work of, and raise funds for, the players’ charity at Finals Day.

The Professional Cricketers’ Trust is a registered charity created to support the life-long health and wellbeing of PCA members and their immediate family.

Today’s game is faster, more competitive, more public, and more pressurised than ever before. Even the happiest professional career in cricket means long stretches away from home and financial uncertainty driven by short-term contracts.

Few careers carry so much uncertainty as that of a professional cricketer but thanks to the Professional Cricketers' Trust, past and present players have a vital support network which helps them to prepare for and readjust in the world beyond cricket.

Whether you play for a men’s team or women’s team, for a week or a decade, every professional cricketer in England and Wales is a life-long member of the PCA; and that means they can count on the Professional Cricketers’ Trust for support.

But it is the international game that has caught Compton’s attention in recent weeks, with the performances and wins for Ben Stokes’ side catching his imagination.

“At the moment it’s great to see England cricket playing so well in the Test match arena,” said Compton. “Being frank I think Zak Crawley for example is an exciting cricketer with a lot of talent, a lot of ability and when he plays well you can see that Test class.

“I think the challenge for the top three, on difficult surfaces where things become a little challenging, can they keep the good balls out?

“Can they give England a platform or foundation? Which has been a question we’ve been asking for some time now.

“There is a wonderful opportunity ahead. They have got an organisation, coaching structure and a leadership that are really behind the team and really going to give them every opportunity to succeed.

“So, I think it’s exciting for anyone who’s looking to play Test cricket, there’s a chance to really go out there and express yourself and play with less inhibitions.”

The Professional Cricketers’ Trust provides vital support to past and present cricketers in England and Wales and their immediate families when in desperate need. The charity’s work is all encompassing, whether it be for unforeseen physical or mental needs. Vitality Blast Finals Day is supporting the players’ charity - to find out more about the Professional Cricketers’ Trust, visit professionalcricketerstrust.org

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