Mental health issues not a cricket problem

Murray Wenzel
Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski have both made calls to step away from cricket

Australian quick Pat Cummins admits constant criticism and the unrelenting playing schedule are obstacles for the modern player, but long-time Cricket Australia medical guru Alex Kountouris insists mental health and wellbeing concerns are not simply a cricket problem.

Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski have all stepped away from playing duties in recent weeks and 21-year-old Pucovski is the latest to do so, just as a Test debut to face Pakistan next Thursday beckoned.

On Friday Cummins detailed the pressures faced by cricketers today, saying "it's hard to find that break or escape" in a 12-month schedule.

"And even for some of the state guys, every single game you play you're being scrutinised, it's being written about and it's a lot of pressure compared to playing just grade cricket on the weekend," he added.

"It's certainly tough ... I can see how people are feeling the pressure."

But as part of cricket's national set-up since 2003, Kountouris said the trio's concerns were not new and were on trend with wider society.

He said the trio's willingness to speak up should be seen as progress, not a concern, given the research Cricket Australia have undertaken in the past five years.

"What we're seeing in our players is a snapshot of society, that's what the data's shown us," sports science and sports medicine manager Kountouris said.

"The level of issues we're seeing in our players is no different, they are no more or less vulnerable than others in society in a similar age group.

"The fact they're coming out and talking about it is fantastic, because in the past players would have suffered in silence."

Koutouris is confident all three will return to cricket and said, like with concussion, Cricket Australia's goal was to ensure players didn't retire due to mental health and wellbeing concerns.

He said the rigours of constant travel and full schedules of the modern cricketer could contribute, but that it wasn't as simple and all three players in this instance were in different boats.

"Some thrive on it, others struggle ... it's not one thing that triggers someone to feel that way," he said.

Cricket Australia is in the latter stages of their third survey and research project since 2014 into mental health, while all Cricket Australia junior and senior teams now travel with at least a psychologist and often a doctor too.

"We're lucky, we're well resourced," Kountouris said.

"Getting the players to talk about it is the hard part.

"There's always been a wall of silence and stigma about talking about mental health and wellbeing and I hope that serves to give the courage to others ... to come out and get the support they need."