New Delhi: In the aftermath of Glenn Maxwell’s decision to step away from cricket to deal with mental health issues, India captain Virat Kohli has thrown his weight behind players going through such tussles, and highlighted the importance of keeping communication channels open for players to be able to express themselves without inhibition.
Maxwell stepped away from the game at the start of Australia’s home summer, pulling out midway through a three-match T20I series against Sri Lanka, despite having made a strong start and being firmly in the team’s plans for next year’s ICC Men’s T20 World Cup at home.
The move has since garnered universal support for the Australian batsman, who has been commended for coming out in the open with this troubles. At a time of ever-increasing scrutiny around players, and in the face of the incessant demands of international sport, mental health has become an important subject as calls have grown louder for the constant presence of a strong support system around players.
"I am absolutely for it. To be very honest, you have a job to do, we have a job to do, and everyone's focused on what they need to do, so it's very difficult for anyone to figure out what's going on in another person's mind," Kohli said.
"When you get to the international stage, every player that's in the squad needs that sort of communication and that ability to just speak out. I think what Glenn has done is remarkable, and it sets the right example for cricketers all over the world, that if you're not in the best frame of mind, you try, you try, you try. But I think, as human beings, you reach a tipping point at some stage and you need some time away from the game.
"Not to say that you give up, but just to gain more clarity, and you tend to take more space [for yourself], which I think is quite acceptable and quite a nice thing to do. These things should be respected, and not taken in a negative way at all because this is happening at a human level, it's got nothing to do with what you do on the field. [It is] just not having the capacity anymore to deal with things, which I think can happen to anyone. So I think it should be taken in a very positive way.”
Kohli recalled his own time in England in 2014, when he hit one of the lowest points of his career. Having turned heads around the world with his savage batting at the ICC World Twenty20 in Bangladesh, where India finished as runners-up, Kohli began suffering a dip in form during the Indian Premier League that followed.
The struggles exacerbated later, when India visited England for a five-Test series and lost 1-3, despite having taken the lead with a famous victory in the second Test at Lord’s. Kohli’s lean form ended up as a symbol of the disastrous tour, as he scored 134 runs in ten innings, having endured endless struggles against the moving ball.
"I've gone through a phase in my career where I've felt like it was the end of the world,” Kohli said. “In England 2014, I just didn't know what to do, what to say to anyone, how to speak, how to communicate. To be honest, I couldn't have said I am not feeling great mentally and I want to get away from the game, because you never know how that's taken.
"These things should be of great importance because if you think that a player is important enough for the team and for Indian cricket to go forward, they should be looked after.”