Trott stands down after relapse
Jonathan Trott is to take an extended break from cricket having suffered a recurrence of the problems that forced him to leave the Ashes tour after the first Test in Brisbane.
Trott left Australia in November with what was described at the time as a "stress related illness" by the ECB. While he hoped that a period of rest ahead of the English domestic season would prove the cure for what he believed to be "burnout," he experienced a recurrence of the symptoms of anxiety and mental exhaustion that plagued him in Australia while representing Warwickshire in recent days. The news was confirmed by a joint ECB-Warwickshire statement on Friday morning.*
No time-frame has been placed upon his return. Indeed, it is quite possible there will be no return, even at county level.
Certainly this decision is highly likely to signal the end of Trott's international career. Not only may Trott be reluctant to put himself back into an environment that causes him such difficulties, but it seems unlikely that the ECB would want to burden him with such pressure or risk the possibility of a recurrence on the eve of a big game.
It may also raise questions about the ECB's handling of the affair. While Trott was full of praise for the compassion shown by Andy Flower, his team-mates and Hugh Morris at the time of his breakdown in Australia, the ECB's support has been less obvious since Trott returned to England.
It is understood that there has been little communication with the ECB and, in particular, the England team management and instead of the support that was promised, Trott has at times cut an isolated and forgotten figure.
Trott has also been stung by criticism in some sections of the media. While dealing with media scrutiny comes with the territory for professional sportsmen, for a man recovering from a stress related illness to have his motives doubted and explanations questioned has not helped the process.
Whether the strong criticism of former England captain, Michael Vaughan, proved particularly damaging to Trott's fragile recovery and was a contributory factor in this decision is hard to say, but the level of scrutiny - inevitable and natural though it is - has proved unbearable. Photographers have been found lurking in his garden and outside his daughter's school since his return from Australia.
The combination of a perceived lack of support and some harsh criticism resulted in Trott feeling on trial every time he has taken the field. He has now concluded he no longer wants to put himself, or his family, through the pain. The relaxed and happy Trott, freed of the concerns of cricket, bears little resemblance to the careworn Trott seen in Australia or around Edgbaston in recent days.
He informed his Warwickshire team-mates of his decision at the end of the Championship game against Sussex on Wednesday. It is understood he thanked them for their support but explained that he did not feel he could serve them if he was unable to concentrate or focus as he had been in the past.
While Trott batted particularly well in the first innings of the match - he top-scored with 37 as Warwickshire were bowled out for 87 - he was less impressive as the game wore on. He was struck twice by short balls from Chris Jordan in the second innings and then fell to a pull stroke off the same bowler. It was an innings that did nothing to refute those who suggest his problems have been born largely out of a struggle to play the short ball.
However, the key moment came when he dropped a catch. Standing at slip to the offspin of Jeetan Patel, Trott put down Ed Joyce on 91. Joyce went on to score an unbeaten 151 and win the game for his team. Trott appears to have blamed himself and his inability to concentrate as he once could. Three other players dropped catches in the same innings, but Trott has always been harder on himself than most. At one time, that self-demanding character drove him to levels of achievement of which most cricketers can only dream. For now, it appears to have become burdensome and destructive.
Aged 32, there is still time for a comeback. But if this is the final chapter, Trott will leave the game with a record of which to take pride. He scored a century in the first of his 49 Tests, against an attack that included Mitchell Johnson, was a part of three Ashes-winning sides and the Test and ODI teams that reached No.1 in the world rankings.
He is the only England player (to have played more than 20 innings) with an ODI average in the 50s - indeed his ODI average is 20% higher than any regular England player in history - and at domestic level he helped Warwickshire win two County Championship titles. He also has the highest T20 average of any England qualified player and, in 2011, he won the ICC Player of the Year award; arguably the highest accolade in cricket.
Stress and anxiety do not discriminate, however, and Trott appears to have decided that the man bent out of shape by cricket is not the man he wants to be. With a young family to consider, he seems to have come to the conclusion that on-field success in no longer worth the sacrifices required.
*10.30am, April 18: This story was updated with quotes from the ECB/Warwickshire statement
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo