Australia news February 9, 2017

Maddinson exit puts spotlight on players' welfare

The issue of players' mental health and welfare after being dropped from the team is something Australian Cricket has to look into more closely

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'Don't think Australia manage any exit very well'

Nic Maddinson's withdrawal from a second consecutive Sheffield Shield match for New South Wales after his omission from the Test side has exposed an old wound in Australian cricket - the pain of being dropped and the expectation that players should know how to handle it on their own.

While there was a time when Australian players found out they were to be omitted via radio or newspaper reports, or in the case of David Hookes an airport attendant in Brisbane changing his baggage tag from Sydney to Adelaide, support for the omitted player remains sketchy, and often the cause for months or even years of dejection and confusion.

The hyper-competitive nature of Australian and international cricket, not only on the field but also off it in the scramble for places at the top of the tree, has often left players spinning. The former Test opener Chris Rogers has recounted his sense of feeling like a failure and desire to move states soon after he was picked and dropped for one Test in Perth in January 2008.

Later that same summer, the fast bowler Shaun Tait took an indefinite break from cricket after being picked then dropped and feeling isolated within the team environment. Even Michael Clarke has spoken of the tearful state he descended into upon being left out of the Test side for the first time in late 2005.

Australian spin bowlers in the wake of Shane Warne were used and then discarded. The likes of Brad Hogg, Beau Casson, Jason Krejza and Nathan Hauritz were never the same bowlers at first-class level after being jettisoned from the Test team. Hogg retired prematurely from international cricket before reinventing himself as a Twenty20 operator. Casson's heart condition worsened and forced him out of the game a couple of years after his puzzling omission from a Test tour to India after performing creditably on Test debut.

Ed Cowan, who was himself dropped unceremoniously from the Test XI on the 2013 Ashes tour, said the manner of a player's exit from the Australian side should be looked at in terms of mental health and welfare. Simply expecting a player to go away and score more runs or take more wickets in domestic cricket while ignoring the mess of emotions that results in, is a lot to ask for.

"I don't think the Australian Test team manages any kind of exit very well to be honest," Cowan said on Thursday. "From my own personal experience it feels like you're left at a train station, you look up and the train is five stops flying down the tracks.

"It's certainly one aspect that I think could be managed better, particularly if they're going to churn through a few players. If they're going to churn through players then Cricket Australia need to be aware that there's going to be some burn and that they're going to have to work extra hard on the welfare side to look after guys that they spit out the other side.

Maddinson was dropped from Australia's squad after managing only 27 runs in four Test innings against South Africa and Pakistan © Getty Images

"It depends how it happens - whether you feel like you're playing well or you've been poorly treated. It's different for every individual. Then it's a question of time healing the wound and really wanting deep inside to get better and reclaim that place. That whole process doesn't happen overnight. It can take a season, four weeks, sometimes two seasons. It's up to the individual but it can be a tough time."

Player welfare has been a recent focus of the Australian Cricketers Association, presently in talks with CA over a new player-payment MOU. In 2015 the association committed nearly $30 million of the cash from their share of Australian cricket revenue to assist the welfare of past players - many of whom fall on hard times following the end of their careers.

"I can't speak highly enough in terms of their welfare programme and getting guys and managing their mental health," Cowan said of the ACA. "[But] I certainly think it's one aspect that Cricket Australia and the Test team could improve."

The Sheffield Shield round starting on Friday will feature numerous players at different points in their relationship with the national team. Travis Head, Marcus Stoinis, Adam Zampa and Sam Heazlett are among the players demobbed from the ODI tour of New Zealand, while George Bailey and Peter Nevill are two players recently discarded from the international arena.

As for Maddinson, it remains to be seen how long he will take time out from the game, having played three Tests and then found himself missing out on selection for India. "He did have a great opportunity with that last red-ball Test but sometimes the damage has already been done," Cowan said.

"If you feel as though you're already under the pump it's pretty hard to produce, particularly as a new guy coming into the team. He'll come back stronger when he chooses to really flick that switch of desire wanting to play and we'll support him through that."

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dave on February 11, 2017, 1:51 GMT

    It is understanding that Maddison may feel dejected after being dropped yet the mental resilience of a player is what is at question. This would not be the first time Maddison would have been dropped from a cricket team. Of course the ultimate dream for him is to have played for Australia but with that dream must be the realisation that sometimes dreams don't always end up happy. Sometimes you have to fight hard for that dream. I notice a lot of people bring up the players that went into obscurity after being dropped but what about Langer, Hayden, Boon, Waugh (S), Mcdermott, Ponting, and Hughes (M), who were all dropped. I am sure that these guys were devastated at the time but they resolved their disappointment by being resilient in mind to fight back to have excellent careers. And perhaps that mental resilience is what made them good players. How do you ingrain resilience? Unsure. May it is like common sense, you are either born with it or not. I hope Maddison can bounce back.

  • David on February 11, 2017, 1:03 GMT

    Jono_m, don't tell annoyedofit, but the form senior Shield batsman at the moment is probably Peter Nevill.. I'd be looking at the young players too.

  • kieran on February 10, 2017, 20:55 GMT

    @Jono_M, to be fair I don't follow domestic as much as international cricket, but its become increasingly common for me to not recognise a good portion of a team. And that's a good thing! What went "wrong" with the generation between Clarke & Smith will remain a mystery.

  • Jonathan on February 10, 2017, 12:18 GMT

    @Hatsforbats, agree entirely, there are not even that many older batsmen around in the shield sides. Just who are they going to pick from? White, Quiney, Finch, Ferguson, Bailey, Cowan, Voges and Klinger, none of whom have ever had extended runs of great form at SHIELD level, Voges aside. No, at some point you've got to move on, these fellows have mostly had a chance at test level in any case and been found wanting. To back it up you simply need to look at the top ten run scorers from last season's sheffield shield, nary a man over 25 to be seen in the top dozen.

  • Mark on February 10, 2017, 12:03 GMT

    I guess, for a lot of players of that level, it's probably the first time they've ever been omitted from a team. Their natural ability would have carried most future National rep players through under-age competitions, trials etc etc, so perhaps it is a shock to face the selectors' axe for the first time. BUT, for time immemorial, the tenet from players who were dropped was, or should have been, "I need to fight my way back into the side", not "Oh dear, what do I do now?". Political correctness gone mad these days, you have a job, you have a contract, make the most of it. Spare a thought for the bloke with a real job who is put off through no fault of his own, and has no ACA or anything else to complain to.

  • kieran on February 10, 2017, 10:14 GMT

    @Downtheorder, agreed the test side shouldn't be a development squad. Unfortunately the experienced domestic players aren't of the same caliber as we've had in the past, so I'm happy to see youth being picked over "experience" when there's no significant difference in ability. Maddinson had neither the record or form to deserve selection.

  • garfie0738963 on February 10, 2017, 9:59 GMT

    The guy failed. He's a sook. Needs to toughen up. Learn from your mistakes or inadequacies...

  • cornel1376908 on February 10, 2017, 9:32 GMT

    As a general rule: youth is the way to go. They made a mistake with Maddinson. But they can learn from that.

  • Jonathan on February 10, 2017, 9:28 GMT

    I don't really see what this has to do with age, mental health issues can hit people of any age, assuming that's what this is about, just look at Jonathan Trott and Marcus Trescothick. Besides that, Nic is one of the more experienced batsmen in the shield competition with over 60 matches and a couple of Aussie A tours under his belt. If you can't pick a fellow at 25 because you think he's still too young than it's not going to leave him with much of a shelf life when you do eventually play him. It seems to me that he was a captains call selection, he wasn't in the form to warrant selection, failed and is now having a tough time dealing with a missed opportunity. Hopefully for his sake he'll be back into the shield side soon, tighten up his game a bit and kick on from there.

  • Max on February 10, 2017, 9:22 GMT

    True. But even more fundamentally, picking a guy who was not in the best form on a hunch was a disaster waiting to happen. The other two smashed their way in. So much damage can be done by picking prematurely. It seems so much has.

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