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  5. It's time we behave! Cricket, mental health and the dark side of fandom

It's time we behave! Cricket, mental health and the dark side of fandom

Mental health is gaining traction worldwide. People are aware, empathetic than before, and more understanding. But, unfortunately, it stops right there. Nothing less, but yes, nothing more. 

Kartik Mehindru Written by: Kartik Mehindru New Delhi Published on: May 25, 2022 10:00 IST
Cricket is one of the most followed sports in the world. Globally, it is just behind football.
Image Source : PIXABAY

Cricket is one of the most followed sports in the world. Globally, it is just behind football.

Mental health is gaining traction worldwide. People are aware, empathetic than before, and more understanding. But, unfortunately, it stops right there. Nothing less, but yes, nothing more. 

The stigma around it still exists and has refused to die down. Eyebrows are raised, questions asked, and people are often misunderstood. Major ailments like Depression, Anxiety, or Borderline Personality Disorder, are equated with sadness, and people are casually asked, rather told, to move on and just be happy. 

 Now, all of this happens to common people, people outside the media gaze, people outside the world of glamour. Now stop, think, and try to comprehend the reality of people constantly under the lens. Yes, it's tough. 

Cricket is one of the most followed sports in the world. Globally, it is just behind football. When you take the pitch, the world is not just watching you, they are criticising you, taking digs at you, trolling you, abusing you, and on some occasions, abusing your family too.

The argument that this is what they signed up for is pretty vague. No, the players did not sign up for trolls, the abuses, the digs. They signed up for their passion, the game, the satisfaction. 

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: Kohli after the infamous 2014 England Tour.

Cricket is the worst sport for mental health: Suzie Bates, former NZ skipper. 

When I got hit, I was angry, and a part of me was hoping my arm was broken. I was like this is it, I just need a break. I was thinking about things I could do on the way back to snap it: Glenn Maxwell

I was in a real dark place and having some difficult thoughts. I was always one of those people who wouldn’t talk about how they are feeling and just keep it internal and crack on. I now realize talking is such a powerful thing and it has completely changed me: Ben Stokes in his column on the Mirror

These are just some cricketers who have come out and talked about their mental health. It's a large crowd out there, and the need to look at it empathetically is at its peak.  The issues are real and need attention. It isn't easy keeping up with all the hate when you yourself are in a dark place.  

Yes, people pay attention. The support is there. But is it enough in face of all the hate, trolls, and digs? Probably not. 

Consider this, Riyan Parag is just a kid. A 20-year-old kid looking to find his place in the massive cricketing world. Well, it did not matter to the so-called fandom. Trolls, digs, and even abuses were hurled at him when he failed to perform in the tournament. 

Rishabh Pant went through a similar phase. Who can forget the Mohali crowd chanting Dhoni's name when the young Pant dropped a catch vs Australia. 

Well, it isn't even restricted to players, Virat Kohli's wife, Anushka Sharma, who herself is a mega Bollywood star, is often dragged into her husband's on-field performances. Even Vamika, their daughter, is not spared from this abuse. 

In India, cricket is a religion. Cricketers are gods. One bad match, one bad final, one blunder, and the images of those gods, their statues, effigies, are burned in the middle of the road. 

Fans, media, trolls, everyone needs to self-introspect. Every struggle is unique. Just because it doesn't fit your pre-conceived definition of struggle, doesn't mean you get to question it. 

It's high time we pay attention. It's high time we are empathetic. It's high time we treat players the way they deserve to be treated.