Monty Panesar opens up on mental health battles and hoping to play again
Former England spinner on suffering from "paranoia/schizophrenia" and setting the record straight with his new book
Former England spinner Monty Panesar has spoken in depth about his mental health issues, describing the shock of being diagnosed with "paranoia/schizophrenia". The 37-year-old now believes he has put his problems behind him and remains hopeful that he can win a return to first-class cricket despite being without a club since 2016. Panesar was an England regular during the mid-to-late 2000s but suffered from bouts of depression and drinking to excess. He was released by Sussex in 2013 after a late-night incident that involved urinating on a bouncer outside a club and although he was included on the subsequent Ashes tour, he played his final match for England during that year's Boxing Day Test at the MCG. Speaking to Nasser Hussain, the former England captain, in an interview with the Daily Mail, Panesar talked about his battle with depression and his hopes for a comeback. He revealed that he had consulted another former England captain Mike Brearley, who is also a qualified psychologist, about his mental health.
"My parents became worried," he said. "They wanted me to see someone. I had always thought strong people couldn't have a problem. I was always the guy who would win games, who had everything in order.
"My cricket had always gone the way I had planned it, but suddenly things started going in a direction I hadn't experienced since childhood. It had all been up, up, up but this was new territory mentally.
"It was a guy called Peter Gilmore who said I was suffering from paranoia/schizophrenia and that shocked me massively. Mike Brearley told me to be careful about the things I was saying to myself. Some experts thought I'd never get better but I knew I could fight it, come through it."
Having left Sussex, Panesar had further run-ins with the management at Essex, before returning for a brief spell at Northamptonshire, where he originally rose to England prominence. He has now written an autobiography, The Full Monty, detailing his experiences and said he is determined to give his playing career "one more go".
"It was difficult," he said. "Everyone was doubting me. I spoke to [former wicketkeeper turned mentor] Neil Burns and he told me everyone thought I'd gone off the rails. He told me there were so many rumours and I had to put the record straight. I tried to do a couple of interviews to get the message out that I'd had problems, but I was on the way back.
"Now the book will hopefully get everything out there. I love the game. I'm not a bad egg in the dressing room, I'm actually a nice guy. I want people to remember the good Monty, but it takes a while to eradicate bad memories. It's like I'm a fireball and people are worried that if they get too close to me they'll get burnt.
"I don't need medication. I don't drink. I don't have good and bad days. All of those things have gone. There was a moment I was at Northampton about 18 months ago and I looked around and thought, 'Wow, those paranoid thoughts are not there any more'. I knew then Monty was back. I'm going to be a cricketer again. I'm going to do it."