Pakistan in Zimbabwe 2013 September 8, 2013

How yoga healed Bryan Strang

With more and more cases of depression in cricket, Firdose Moonda catches up with Bryan Strang, who had to deal with his own problems, and found a way to overcome them

"I used to feel completely at peace when I was bowling because there was no past and no future. There was only the present. Cricket is a form of yoga actually and that's what these guys don't realise. When they stop playing they have to continue doing yoga in some form."

The thought of Brendan Taylor or Hamilton Masakadza sitting cross legged, hands joined together, eyes closed and mind clear made both Bryan Strang and I giggle after he concluded his assessment on the healing powers of cricket. "You can't see them doing it, can you?" he asked me. I shook my head. So did he.

"Neither can I. That's why when these guys finish playing some of them don't know what to do... life can be empty."

Strang knows all about the pain of nothingness because his own life was darkened by it when his career ended in 2001. He took to self-harm and even considered throwing himself under a London tube train while working in the UK. Then, he realised something about the world.

"I was applying for a job in Korea and one of the questions was whether I'd ever suffered from any kind of depression. And I had an epiphany of sorts. I just thought, 'If you live in this world and you haven't been depressed at some point, then you must be insane.' Those were your choices in the world at that time: insanity or depression."

To break that cycle, Strang found solitude in India where different forms of meditation helped him heal. He went there to escape cricket but knew that would probably be impossible and learned to enjoy it anonymously. "It's so different when you can look at it as an outsider," he said.

These days, Strang doesn't feel the need to be a silent observer. He was at Harare Sports Club for much of the first Test between Zimbabwe and Pakistan and happily chatted to anyone who enquired about his current past-times. He took great pleasure in the fight Zimbabwe showed but, like many of the team's fans, was not overly surprised when they crashed to a heavy defeat.

"This reminds me of when we needed 99 to beat West Indies and were bowled out for 63," he mused with a laugh as Zimbabwe crashed to 58 for 5 against Pakistan. "It happens. There will be another match."

He, however, won't be there to watch it. On Monday, Strang will travel to Bulawayo where he intends to spend the next few months volunteering at the Chipangali Wildlife Orphanage. The centre takes care of a range of animals from the smallest monkeys to lions who have been abandoned, injured or orphaned in the wild.

It runs on donations and funds gathered from overseas volunteers but is also looking for other ways to expand its profile, and that's where Strang comes in. The late Princess Diana was a patron of the organisation, and he intends to help restore the walk created in her memory and use contacts in the UK to acquire more resources.

After that, who knows? He may return to Harare, head back overseas for a while or continue looking for opportunities to contribute to the African bush. Whatever he does, he seems as content now as he once was with ball in hand.

Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • bluefunk on September 8, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    Bryan's got it spot on with the analogy between cricket and meditation imo. The game at its best opens up a gateway to a parallel universe, a kind of world within the larger world with its own network of behaviour, laws and ethics. Above and beyond the basic rules that make the sport functional, cricket's deeply ingrained ethos of fair, 'sportsmanlike' behaviour is what lends the game its special aura. Unspoken courtesies like batters choosing not to run when an overthrow accidentally deflects off one of them, for instance, or the bowler warning the non-striker before a mankading - all of these create a space of peace and solace within societies that can often seem unjust, exploitative, and consumed by self-interest.The intensity with which a cricketer on the field experiences this sense of transport to a better world is probably unmatched, but the game extends its warmth to the rest of us too; viewers, commentators, umpires, ball-boys, we all feel the glow of our game's special magic.

  • on September 9, 2013, 20:49 GMT

    What a great article. For many of us who have shown an interest in the game for a length of time, we see players like Bryan Strang come, do quite well, and fade away from the public eye. Obviously it doesn't mean the story is over, for better or worse. The shocking fact is that 'for worse' has been the case for many ex-cricketers - the relatively high levels of suicide are well documented. I am glad that Bryan Strang had a strong enough will to take himself through the dark times, and it is lovely to hear him speaking so candidly and lucidly about his path.

    More articles like this please.

  • ReverseSweepRhino on September 9, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    "...went to India to escape cricket..."

    Odd choice. Especially considering he was planning to go to Korea, where cricket is easy to escape from!

  • kc69 on September 8, 2013, 19:30 GMT

    He can actually help Zimbabwe team to regain their confidence.Who knows that may just fill in the gap and help Zim win a match,anyways there are playing better match after match.

  • on September 8, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    Good to hear he is doing well. Would like to know about the others in the 1990s and early 2000s era of Zimbabwe.

  • on September 8, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    I remember Brain Strang as a player, when he toured Pakistan. Good Bowler nevertheless .... Life not just about money but internal happiness .... There is no problem in earning money but should be earned honestly .... If not then depression will follow soon as the greed will grow and grow .... To avoid it, it is better to spend sometime with those require cares .... If personally prefer to give free education ..... That's the most comfortable thing in the world ...

  • bluefunk on September 8, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    Bryan's got it spot on with the analogy between cricket and meditation imo. The game at its best opens up a gateway to a parallel universe, a kind of world within the larger world with its own network of behaviour, laws and ethics. Above and beyond the basic rules that make the sport functional, cricket's deeply ingrained ethos of fair, 'sportsmanlike' behaviour is what lends the game its special aura. Unspoken courtesies like batters choosing not to run when an overthrow accidentally deflects off one of them, for instance, or the bowler warning the non-striker before a mankading - all of these create a space of peace and solace within societies that can often seem unjust, exploitative, and consumed by self-interest.The intensity with which a cricketer on the field experiences this sense of transport to a better world is probably unmatched, but the game extends its warmth to the rest of us too; viewers, commentators, umpires, ball-boys, we all feel the glow of our game's special magic.

  • on September 9, 2013, 20:49 GMT

    What a great article. For many of us who have shown an interest in the game for a length of time, we see players like Bryan Strang come, do quite well, and fade away from the public eye. Obviously it doesn't mean the story is over, for better or worse. The shocking fact is that 'for worse' has been the case for many ex-cricketers - the relatively high levels of suicide are well documented. I am glad that Bryan Strang had a strong enough will to take himself through the dark times, and it is lovely to hear him speaking so candidly and lucidly about his path.

    More articles like this please.

  • ReverseSweepRhino on September 9, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    "...went to India to escape cricket..."

    Odd choice. Especially considering he was planning to go to Korea, where cricket is easy to escape from!

  • kc69 on September 8, 2013, 19:30 GMT

    He can actually help Zimbabwe team to regain their confidence.Who knows that may just fill in the gap and help Zim win a match,anyways there are playing better match after match.

  • on September 8, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    Good to hear he is doing well. Would like to know about the others in the 1990s and early 2000s era of Zimbabwe.

  • on September 8, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    I remember Brain Strang as a player, when he toured Pakistan. Good Bowler nevertheless .... Life not just about money but internal happiness .... There is no problem in earning money but should be earned honestly .... If not then depression will follow soon as the greed will grow and grow .... To avoid it, it is better to spend sometime with those require cares .... If personally prefer to give free education ..... That's the most comfortable thing in the world ...

  • on September 8, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    I remember Brain Strang as a player, when he toured Pakistan. Good Bowler nevertheless .... Life not just about money but internal happiness .... There is no problem in earning money but should be earned honestly .... If not then depression will follow soon as the greed will grow and grow .... To avoid it, it is better to spend sometime with those require cares .... If personally prefer to give free education ..... That's the most comfortable thing in the world ...

  • on September 8, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    Good to hear he is doing well. Would like to know about the others in the 1990s and early 2000s era of Zimbabwe.

  • kc69 on September 8, 2013, 19:30 GMT

    He can actually help Zimbabwe team to regain their confidence.Who knows that may just fill in the gap and help Zim win a match,anyways there are playing better match after match.

  • ReverseSweepRhino on September 9, 2013, 11:11 GMT

    "...went to India to escape cricket..."

    Odd choice. Especially considering he was planning to go to Korea, where cricket is easy to escape from!

  • on September 9, 2013, 20:49 GMT

    What a great article. For many of us who have shown an interest in the game for a length of time, we see players like Bryan Strang come, do quite well, and fade away from the public eye. Obviously it doesn't mean the story is over, for better or worse. The shocking fact is that 'for worse' has been the case for many ex-cricketers - the relatively high levels of suicide are well documented. I am glad that Bryan Strang had a strong enough will to take himself through the dark times, and it is lovely to hear him speaking so candidly and lucidly about his path.

    More articles like this please.

  • bluefunk on September 8, 2013, 17:05 GMT

    Bryan's got it spot on with the analogy between cricket and meditation imo. The game at its best opens up a gateway to a parallel universe, a kind of world within the larger world with its own network of behaviour, laws and ethics. Above and beyond the basic rules that make the sport functional, cricket's deeply ingrained ethos of fair, 'sportsmanlike' behaviour is what lends the game its special aura. Unspoken courtesies like batters choosing not to run when an overthrow accidentally deflects off one of them, for instance, or the bowler warning the non-striker before a mankading - all of these create a space of peace and solace within societies that can often seem unjust, exploitative, and consumed by self-interest.The intensity with which a cricketer on the field experiences this sense of transport to a better world is probably unmatched, but the game extends its warmth to the rest of us too; viewers, commentators, umpires, ball-boys, we all feel the glow of our game's special magic.