Tom Maynard inquest February 28, 2013

Maynard lessons must be learned by all

There will be an urge to point fingers but it is more important to help other young players who face the same temptations as those that caused Tom Maynard's death

Spike Milligan used to tell a story about his experience of mental illness. The comedian suffered bouts of depression and told a tale of lying in bed alone and crying uncontrollably. On one occasion, as he did so, he noticed his young daughter slowly walking towards him with her arms outstretched and offering a glass of water. She knew it wouldn't help, but she wanted to try and couldn't think of anything else to offer.

For some reason it was the story that came to mind when reflecting on cricket's reaction to the death of Tom Maynard. As the game in England and Wales reels from the loss and the subsequent revelations, it is looking for answers and solutions and, some at least, are keen to find someone to blame.

There isn't a neat solution, though. There are no easy answers and, while this episode might remind some of the dangers of drink and drugs, few could claim they have never heard these lessons before. It would be simplistic to state that cricket has a problem with drink and drugs. It is a society-wide problem that is bound to be reflected in a game which draws its participants from that society. To think that cricket can provide the answers is naive.

Looking for someone to blame is fruitless, too. While some indirectly involved may torture themselves with hindsight and retrospection, they may conclude that this was, in essence, just a terrible accident. It has already claimed several victims: Tom Maynard, his family and friends, the train driver and the police officers involved among them. It doesn't need any more. Nothing and no-one can ensure there will be no repeat. For all the good work and good intentions of the Professional Cricketers' Association (PCA) - the players' union - the ECB and the counties, there is no way of protecting all players from all the dangers of society. Perhaps more pertinently, there is no way of protecting them from themselves.

And that's they key issue here. While some claim a young Surrey squad was given too long a leash and an unhealthy culture of drinking was allowed to develop, the truth is young men have always pushed the boundaries in search of fun. Rarely does it come back and bite quite as hard. Now, with players paid more at a younger age - in some cases, before they are ready for it - perhaps the temptations are greater than ever.

Ultimately, there is no getting away from the sad conclusion that Maynard made a series of judgement errors - the sort of errors many of us make at some stage or another - and paid the harshest penalty. He knew he should not take illegal drugs; he knew he should not drive after drinking; he knew he should not run from the police. It is not Surrey's fault that he ignored those truisms. He was young, certainly, but old enough to take responsibility for his actions. Neither his club nor his friends could be expected to provide round the clock care.

Those who suggest the Tom Maynard Trust - the Trust set up in his name to offer opportunities to disadvantaged young sportspeople - will suffer for the revelations about his drink and drug use are missing the point. The fact that Maynard succumbed to such temptation simply underlines the need for more education, for greater awareness and for more opportunities for those at risk. If the Trust can prevent others from making the same mistake - and it surely can - it will have performed a highly valuable function. The next generation of sportsmen need to be aware of the mistakes the likes of Maynard and the footballer Paul Gascoigne have made with a view to avoiding them. Perhaps just a little good might yet come from this awful case.

There are some signs that the game now takes a more enlightened view towards drink and drugs. When Paul Smith, suffering from seizures and blackouts, was revealed to have a drug problem in 1997, the ECB responded by banning him from all levels of cricket. From standing on the Lord's balcony celebrating a Man of the Match award and Warwickshire's sixth trophy within three seasons, he lost everything. He lost his employment, his home, his family and spent time sleeping rough. At one stage he went for more than a week without food.

"I needed help and they gave me a punishment," Smith, now very much back on his feet, told ESPNcricinfo. "I wanted a doctor and they gave me Gerard Elias," the QC who for years fronted the ECB's disciplinary panels and took a notoriously tough approach to drug-related transgressions. To be fair to him and the ECB, Smith was offered a little help alongside the ban, but it was hardly adequate for a man who confesses he was "never more than 30 minutes" from drugs for several years.

"Surrey are a much altered club. Recognising a need for greater maturity in the dressing room, they have signed a coterie of experienced professionals in order to provide stability, leadership and an example to their young players"

The current approach is not only kinder, it is more realistic. County players found to have taken recreational drugs in out-of-competition testing no longer face an automatic ban. Instead they will receive counselling. The emphasis is very much on helping rather than punishing and encourages those affected - or their friends and team-mates - to seek help without the fear that it could result in a career-defining ban. A game that once tried to look the other way at least now acknowledges it has a problem.

The message needs reinforcing, though. It was revealing that Jade Dernbach was under the mistaken impression at the inquest that anyone found to have taken recreational drugs would suffer an immediate ban. The players have to be made aware that there is non-judgemental help available. Perhaps, if Maynard had known that, things may have been different.

Things are changing for the better. Even as this article is being written, a batch of new county professionals are receiving advice from the PCA on the dangers of drink, drugs and gambling at an Edgbaston seminar. Angus Porter, the chief executive of the PCA, remarked during a lull in the Maynard inquest that gambling unrelated to cricket was quickly emerging as the greatest concern to his association.

Meanwhile the PCA is urging the ECB to extend the incentive scheme - whereby clubs are rewarded for fielding younger, England-qualified players - by two years, to benefit those attending MCCUs (the six universities affiliated to the MCC which allow young people to continue their education while benefiting from excellent cricket facilities and coaching). The current system, it is argued, disincentives young players from gaining a university education as, by the time they leave, they are approaching the threshold where the counties receive no funding for their selection. One of the downsides of 12-month contracts in the county game is the fact that players have less opportunity to learn transferable skills for their life after cricket. Anything that eases that transition has to be sensible.

The PCA and ECB are keen to see greater drug testing, too. The evidence of the Maynard incident would suggest that testing is not the deterrent it might be and, while there has been a recent emphasis on combating depression, the game may have as much of an issue with decadence. It is worth noting, too, that when Warwickshire - unsettled by a succession of drug problems - attempted to bring in their own testing system in 2005, it was the PCA that blocked them. The world and the PCA have changed a great deal since those days.

Surrey, in particular, are a much altered club. A year ago Surrey, recently promoted and crowned CB40 champions, had recovered a bit of the strut that had once characterised their style. They were a vibrant club with a golden future, stuffed with brilliant young cricketers enjoying life on and off the pitch. It all seems rather innocent in retrospect.

They have a different feel now. Wiser, perhaps; sadder, certainly. Recognising a need for greater maturity in the dressing room, Surrey have signed a coterie of highly experienced professionals - including Graeme Smith as captain - in order to provide stability, leadership and an example to the young players who remain. A different culture will be instilled. Plan A, which included the appointment of a 22-year-old captain, was not a complete failure, but there is no getting away from the fact that it ended in disaster.

Chris Adams, Surrey's director of cricket, has admitted he has asked himself over and over whether he could have done anything differently. Perhaps, in retrospect, there were warning signs: Maynard had been hit by a car while out drinking in Brighton about 10 days prior to his death but, while the club disciplined him, there was no suggestion of a drug issue or a habitual drinking problem. Maynard's form was good and it was his first disciplinary setback at the club.

"I have looked at what I did and asked myself many times could I have managed the player differently and could we have known," Adams told the Telegraph. "But there is absolutely no way on earth I think we could spot the signs of social drugs use to this level.

"I can 100 percent guarantee that there was no partying culture at Surrey. We have 23 professionals on our staff and the majority of those players are outstanding individuals who live good lives. We are aware we had a small minority group last year that away from cricket were getting entrapped into the pitfalls of London life and it is our responsibility now to make sure that doesn't happen again."

Whether they have embraced the extent of the problem remains unclear. Surrey's chief executive, Richard Gould, said he was satisfied that Maynard's drug use was a "one-off" at The Oval, though it is hard to share his optimism. Certainly it was notable that none of the witnesses at the inquest claimed to be aware that Maynard had ever taken illegal substances. Cocaine and ecstasy are social drugs. The fear remains that others are wrestling with similar lifestyles issues that require help.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Peter on March 1, 2013, 23:17 GMT

    Yes, it is all very tragic. It must be so tough for Tom Maynard''s family, and I don't think anybody else should be made to feel accountable over this terrible circumstance. What is every bit as important as education on the dangers of illegal drugs, is the specific danger of alcohol - which people can forget about because of its legality. A tragic accident such as this could only realistically be blamed on excessive drinking - and nobody should be under the illusion that alcohol can't be as dangerous as any illegal drug. I'd like to think we've come a long way since the days of Paul Smith's shockingly Victorian punishment from the ECB in the 90's - and that help is on hand for those who need it.

  • Anand on March 1, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    So young men who take to drink and drugs will be helped by the ECB? Wow! What next? Open a branch to counsel players with domestic problems? Why don't they also "help" people who have fallen "victim" to their greed and fixed the game? Tom Maynard did not fall victim to just a single bad decision he made that fateful night. He had been ingesting drugs for at least 3 months according to the inquest. It is nothing but a character flaw. The ECB need not waste its time sorting out the flaws in any individual's character. Rather than send a strong message that drink and drug abuse will be treated with zero tolerance they come up with this tripe. I'd rather the ECB spent their time, money and effort in supporting and rewarding young men with a good work ethic, talent and an honest approach to the game.

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2013, 11:29 GMT

    A great niucely balanced piece. I don't do any drugs or have any addictions that affect my working life. I have other 'issues' though and no one seems inclined to offer me any help or guidance; why should people who act illegally be offered so much help at high cost? Matt commented that Tom was "the consummate professional" - not sure that the levels of cocaine inside him at any moment on the field show a dedication to his profession that is consummate. Tragic Tom's death was, absolutely no doubt about it; but there's been too little acknowledgement of his own role in his own destruction.

  • Richard on March 1, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    Agree entirely with Nutcutlet, but would add that it is inconceivable that Maynard managed to keep his habits secret from those around him for all of his waking and sleeping hours for over three months. Nor is it likely he indulged in narcotics alone so, sadly, the inquest appears to have been a fudge with the primary aim of protecting the living at the expense of the deceased. As to young sportsmen with too much money in general, I would propose they are paid a living wage under a certain age, with the remainder of their income kept in trust and out of immediate reach until they retire from the game. They might not like it at first, but they would love it when they grow up.

  • Maarten on March 1, 2013, 7:53 GMT

    " Maynard made a series of judgement errors" and Mr Dobell mentions the drink driving not the drinking itself. Maynard and friends took an absurd amount of alcoholic beverages. Alcohol is the big problem here but not so easy to handle as drugs because everybody is using alcohol. Give guidance in that issue, not so easy as drugtesting

  • John on March 1, 2013, 1:33 GMT

    Here in America, where even very ordinary players in American football, baseball, basketball and ice hockey earn millions of dollars a year, the problem is just the same. Young people with lots of energy and lots of money are sometimes going to find ways to spend it that are neither good for them nor good for society.

    The only thing that can really be done is to offer them guidance when they are very young and support when they get older. Being aware that the problem is going to crop up and being ready for it helps, too- something that seems to have been lacking in the Maynard case.

    At the end of the day, though, evolution teaches us that those best able to adapt are those that survive the best. Humanity is not immune from that principle.

  • Matt on March 1, 2013, 0:50 GMT

    A very sad situation and it's such a shame that it took a death for "lessons to be learned by all". I guess credit should go to Australian authorities for transparently investigating their own drugs in sport problem. It should become the standard that other countries aspire to, so that more tragedies like this are hopefully avoided

  • o on February 28, 2013, 22:13 GMT

    I definitely agree with the treatment as opposed to punishment but greater drug testing doesn't really make sense as it appeared it was the legal drug alcohol that was the main culprit here, unless they're going to test for alcohol it doesn't make a lot of sense.With this new found responsibility are the grounds and TV going to stop sponsoring the game with big alcohol companies as well then ? It's a complicated situation most people enjoy alcohol respectfully but just because it's legal doesn't mean it's not a dangerous drug (trials have shown it to be one of the worst) and when used to excess or in times of depression even more so as it's a natural depressant.

  • Stephen on February 28, 2013, 21:27 GMT

    I agree wholeheartedly with Nutcutlet that this was a very sensitive piece of writing and it is so shocking that it had to come to light in tragedy. I would also like to add in relation to jb633's comments that it is not only the drugs (ie Cocaine/Ecstasy) but also the alcohol abuse which is prevalent amongst the younger generation, the amount that was said to have been drunk on the fateful evening was - and should be seen as - way over the limit of what is acceptable. I suppose many of my generation would like to think that there is no harm in a few pints after a game, but not to this extent. I do hope something positive does come out of this, and the idea that clubs will have to play their part in pastoral care for young stars is surely the way forward.

  • Jon on February 28, 2013, 19:50 GMT

    This is a topic that is not really specifically related to cricket but society as a whole. Drug use amongst the younger generations has increased greatly in this country and I think there is a great detachment with regards to drugs from one generation to the next. The death of Tom is a tragedy and we should not chastise him because it has come to light that these recreational drugs have been found in his system. So many youngsters will experience drugs and the temptations are there for youngsters in any profession. Cricket is certainly doing its bit by impelemting procedures that can test for recreational drugs but if we are being honest with ourselves it will still happen.Cocaine only lasts in the system for two days and if players want to do it I am sure they will find ways that they can achieve it. Only by educating society as a whole and the police getting to grips with the high end supply side will anything ever be achieved.

  • No featured comments at the moment.