Davies opens up about depression
Steven Davies, the Surrey wicketkeeper, has spoken openly for the first time about suffering from depression after a difficult 2012 season in which he experienced the loss of his friend and team-mate Tom Maynard, coupled with a dip in form that cost him his place in the England set-up and also saw him dropped by Surrey.
Davies was left out of Surrey's crucial fixture against Nottinghamshire in September, which they won to secure Division One status, although he returned for the final game of the season after his replacement, Gary Wilson, departed for the World T20 with Ireland. At the end of the season, Davies chose to take some time away from cricket and he has come back refreshed and keen to return to international contention.
"I took a bit of a break at the end of last season," Davies told Surrey TV. "I suffered with depression and took a few months off and it's done me the world of good. I spent some time with my family and now I'm fresh and ready to crack on this year."
Maynard's death in June, after an accident on the London Underground, hit Surrey's young squad hard, with Davies among those struggling to come to terms with the loss. The tragedy contributed to Rory Hamilton-Brown, Maynard's flat-mate, standing down from the Surrey captaincy after a period of compassionate leave. He eventually left the club, choosing to move back to Sussex over the close season.
"Last year was tough for everyone," Davies said. "It affects people in different ways. For me, I really struggled. I knew I just needed some family time. I had a bit of break away and now I'm ready and really looking forward to the 2013 season."
The subject of depression in cricket has become a more openly discussed, with players such as Marcus Trescothick, Matthew Hoggard and Iain O'Brien - who has recently contributed to a PCA awareness campaign - revealing their experiences of the illness. A book on dealing with depression, with a foreword by Trescothick, has been distributed to all PCA members this year.
After choosing to take a break, Davies, 26, was offered an unusual touring experience - for a cricketer - over the winter. Davies is one of the few openly gay sportsmen in the UK and he has developed a friendship with the singer Elton John, a cricket fan known for being a regular around the England dressing room during the 1980s. At John's suggestion, Davies joined him on the road for a few weeks.
"Since I came out, we've bonded," Davies said. "He's looked after me in many ways, he knew I was going through a hard time and I mentioned that I was going to take some time away from cricket. He said that winters in England can be a bit depressing and he asked me 'Why don't you come on tour with me?' ... I had a great time. It's a different world that he lives in but it was great to experience it."
Back at The Oval, where Davies has resumed his preparations for the new season, the wicketkeeper was encouraged by Surrey's prospects. With Graeme Smith signing as the club's overseas player and captain, as well as the arrivals of Vikram Solanki and Gary Keedy, Surrey have added experience to their squad as they attempt to make a more confident statement in 2013.
Davies also knows that a strong start with Surrey could aid his ambitions with England. After touring with England in the UAE last year, he was put on standby for the Edgbaston Test against West Indies in June, after Matt Prior sustained an eye infection. That was his last involvement, however, and the rise of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler seemed to have squeezed Davies out of contention, even after Craig Kieswetter was dropped, but he has not given up on adding to his 13 caps.
"I had some time away from cricket but really kept up my strength work," Davies said. "I spent a lot of time in the gym getting my core strength up. County seasons are long - you need to be strong and fit.
"Initially it's getting back into things and doing well for Surrey. We've got a great squad this season and have recruited some experience. I feel like we're going to do great things and it's about scoring my runs and taking my catches. After that it's about getting back into the England set-up. It's where I want to be and it's why I play the game of cricket."