April 23, 2013

"I was ready to give up... I hated the game"

Ed Kemp
The death of a friend and team-mate made Surrey keeper Steven Davies wonder if he wanted to continue playing

"Losing a friend is something that I've not really gone through before. Losing a team-mate and someone that I really cared about - and was a massive part of the team - was a huge shock. Everyone reacts in different ways, and I just really struggled with it."

After the death of Tom Maynard in June last year, Steven Davies suffered from depression. The daily demands of the county game meant there was no escape from the tragedy, and Davies sought help from a specialist, recommended to him by a friend. It helped a bit, but playing cricket no longer felt important, and certainly wasn't fun. Although his glovework remained competent, Davies' form with the bat completely disintegrated - having passed 1000 first-class runs in each of the previous three seasons, he managed just 438 in 2012, 104 of which came in one innings against Somerset in May.

"The cricket environment was the last place that I wanted to be," Davies said. "Every time I went to a cricket ground it would remind me of Tom and I didn't want that. I was out in the middle not really wanting to be there. The county season is relentless and it just kept building up. There was an occasion when we played Notts away [in the Championship in July] where I rang my parents to tell them that I was going to quit, that I'd had enough of cricket. I was ready to give it all up, because I just didn't see it coming to an end. I was in a bad place, I hated the game."

That call prompted his parents to visit him in Nottingham. Together they talked things through and agreed he would see it through to the end of the season, then take the winter off, and attempt to "find the love again".

"I just couldn't wait for the last game of the season, just to get away from it," he said. I've always loved playing cricket, so it was a strange feeling, to really hate the game that much. Looking back, I should have taken the break during the season. But I felt I had a responsibility to keep on going to try and look after the younger players that have come into the squad [although only 26, Davies sees himself as an experienced head in the Surrey dressing room]. In the end it didn't benefit me and it didn't benefit the team, really."

As well as seeing the specialist, Davies was also on medication, though it gave him headaches and he came off it as soon as he'd got through the county campaign. "I'm not seeing anyone anymore. It was the family time that I needed. I just spent three-and-a-half months with them, forgot about cricket for a while, and that was the best therapy for me. I'm really glad I decided to take the winter off, because there is more to life than cricket."

Davies knows that better than most. When he first told the world he was gay back in February 2011 he "couldn't believe" the attention.

"I genuinely thought it would be a tiny bit in the paper," he said. "And I swear, when I went to get the papers, I could see my face on every front cover from about 20 metres away."

But the experience of coming out has been "100% positive" - part of his winter break included joining Elton John (a friend ever since Davies made his announcement) on tour for four weeks.

"He knew I was having a hard time and asked me to join him. It was a great experience. Coming out has changed my life, and changed it for the better. So I want to try and give back."

To that end Davies is setting up a company called Real Talk - his own idea - which will put online resources into schools to try and educate youngsters on issues of sexuality. "It's in its early stages but it will just be to let people know that they shouldn't be scared of coming out; that there's nothing weird about being gay and that you should be who you are.

But it's also to educate others. I know a lot of people who don't know any gay people, so it's just to say that we're normal people, exactly the same as you. Being in the closet for so long and being in pro sport, I was worried about coming out, and now I have and I've seen the impact it's had on some people. The response I got was amazing. I feel this resource can really change people's lives, and it could even save a life."

So what now? "Back in love" with cricket, since Christmas, Davies has worked hard to get himself in nick for the season - and an attempt to reaffirm his England credentials. Though he was on the Pakistan tour to the UAE in early 2012, he hasn't played international cricket since being dropped from the ODI team just before the 2011 World Cup - and this year he's targeting a return to the one-day set-up.

"I just want to focus on getting back to where I was, on having a bloody good year and getting back into the England side. I'm really energised and excited for the year, and I've got a feeling it's going to be a good one."

No one would begrudge him. As a person, Davies has already had more to deal with than most cricketers his age. But as a player, the serious stuff could well be yet to come.

This article was first published in the May 2013 issue of All Out Cricket magazine. Click here for All Out Cricket's latest subscription offers

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 24, 2013, 3:46 GMT

    It's Davies's misfortune to have been playing at a time when England's best keeper-batsman since Alan Knott has nailed down that role on a long-term basis in England's Test team. While his best chance of a recall obviously lies in either or both of the one-day formats (why he was ever dropped from the ODI squad with a strike-rate of a run a ball is something of a mystery, particularly as the lack of power hitting at the top of the order remains England's Achilles Heel & his glovework is vastly superior to Kieswetter's, Bairstow's & even the rapidly improving Joss Buttler's), a Test call-up in the next couple of years certainly isn't out of the question, especially given Matt Prior's recent comments about wanting to play regularly in the IPL.

    In the meantime, though, Davies's misfortune is Surrey's fortune, as he'll be available for us throughout the season. Assuming he'll be Smith's opening partner in the one-day formats, we can look forward to some scintillating starts this year.

  • Martin on April 23, 2013, 18:41 GMT

    Good cricketer and I hope he has a great season and wish him all the very best in his career - but "Davies has already had more to deal with than most cricketers his age" ? A bit naive, surely ? What about cricketers emerging from some of the notoriously tough areas of Asia ?

  • Michael on April 23, 2013, 10:34 GMT

    Davies really suffered last year. His keeping was woeful at times and he seemed to get out in the same way over and over again (missed timed cut or pull). All signs of poor concentration/over things on his mind.

    We know he has class and his hundred last week was a pleasure to watch. I hope he keeps it up as he vitally important to the Surrey batting.

    There is banter about his sexuality in the crowd, nothing crude, just subtle references, mainly because The Oval is adjacent to London's oldest and most frequented gay area, Vauxhall.

    "See you in Fire Davo!"

  • Dummy4 on April 23, 2013, 5:31 GMT

    he has come up with too strong performance and thats what real fighter do. this is only way to give tribute to tom.

  • dev on April 23, 2013, 5:06 GMT

    Yes Steve we all miss the backbone of Surrey cricket county a great middle order batsman and a superb person but Tommy Maynard but let's play this year.s at least friend's life uc0 for him and lets get the vivid but apart Dunn others you should take more responsibility for that title along with Pietersen let's soak the season buddy my good wishes with the Surrey team this year but do a favour if rohit sharma from India available then include him in the team nice player to have in middle order

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