Nic Maddinson withdraws from Australia A team for mental-health reasons
Cameron Bancroft has replaced the Victoria batsman, who has stepped away from the game for the second time
Nic Maddinson has withdrawn from the Australia A team to face Pakistan a three-day tour match in Perth for mental-health reasons.
Maddinson, 27, has become the second player in recent weeks to step down from an Australian representative team due to mental-health issues after Glenn Maxwell stepped away from the T20 international squad during the series against Sri Lanka.
Western Australia batsman Cameron Bancroft will replace Maddinson in the Australia A team for the day-night game at Perth Stadium.
Australia A coach Graeme Hick said the squad was fully supportive of Maddinson's decision to withdraw.
"Nic has made the right decision and we are all behind him," Hick was quoted in a statement. "It is braver to speak up than to suffer in silence and I applaud Nic for having the courage to put his health first.
"While saddened to see Nic stand down, we welcome Cam Bancroft to the Australia A XI. Cam is obviously no stranger to quality international bowling and the Perth Stadium wicket. We have no doubt he will fit well into the team."
Hick later spoke in Perth about the players' welfare, and the kind of pressure and expectations they face these days. "It is a concern in terms of the individuals involved, it's not a situation they wish to be in," Hick said at a press conference. "There's a lot of pressure in the cricket environment at the moment. We wish them well, to us at CA, the players' welfare and them getting better and doing what they need to get better is the first concern. I was only told late last night about Nic, haven't spoken to him personally yet, so hopefully we get him back soon.
"In any cricket now there's a lot of expectations among the players, and how you handle it all, everyone deals with it differently. It's tough, it's professional sport, some deal with it better than others. I'm not in any position to judge or comment on it, I don't know a lot about it personally, I don't want to delve too much into it apart from that I feel for Nic, he's been in great form this summer and hitting the ball really well, so it would've been a great opportunity for him."
Hick indicated that while it was a positive sign for the game that players felt comfortable being more open about how they were feeling, there would be plenty of pressure in the air come the first ball of the tour game on Monday. "There's a hell of a lot done. The states and CA have people involved in the set-ups to deal with whatever issues [come up]," he said. "I think what's great now is the fact that it's not taboo, people are coming out and speaking about it a lot sooner than they used to, rather than staying quiet until it's too late so to speak.
"The fact people are speaking about it more openly is certainly helping the issue. I feel a bit for the batters that are here, because there's potentially a Test match around the corner for them, so there's added pressure there, but that's all part and parcel of the pressure you have to deal with if you're going to play professional sport, so it is an opportunity for Cameron as much as it is for anyone else."
Ben Oliver, Cricket Australia's head of national teams, said Maddinson would be given all the support he needed to return to full health.
"The wellbeing of our players is always our primary concern," Oliver said. "We are proud that our players are comfortable to speak honestly and openly about how they are feeling.
"We will provide Nic with all the support and care we can and wish him a full and speedy recovery. We also ask that Nic's privacy be respected at this time."
This is the second time Maddinson has needed to take personal leave from the game during his career due to mental health issues.
The first came in early 2017, not long after his initial shock selection to play Test cricket in late 2016 and subsequent omission after just three Tests.
Although he returned to New South Wales, his performances at state level tailed off dramatically and led to him losing his contract at the end of the 2017-18 season.
But Maddinson was an outside chance to find his way back to Test cricket having been selected for Australia A on the back of 12 months of outstanding form for Victoria. Since moving to Melbourne without a contract, he has scored 952 runs in 13 Sheffield Shield innings at an average of 79.33, with four centuries including a 224 against South Australia this season.
He has spoken openly about maturing as a person and a player since his three Tests in late 2016, conceding he simply wasn't ready for Test cricket at that stage and has learned some valuable lessons from the experience.
He has also spoken about the positive effect Victoria's more relaxed environment has had on his game.
Mental health is becoming a far more prevalent issue in Australian cricket than before. Moises Henriques was the first to go public with his battle. Australia women's player Nicole Bolton has also opened up about her issues over the past 12 months.
Maddinson's Victoria and Australia A team-mate Will Pucovski also needed time out of the game last summer.
Alex Kountouris, CA's sports science and sports medicine manager, said in a statement that CA is committed to better understanding mental health and supporting those who were encountering issues in this area.
"Mental health is a challenge faced by Australian communities and elite sporting organisations and cricket is no different," Kountouris said. "Like other professional sports we are working very hard to better understand the challenges faced by our players and staff so we can support them.
"We are all proud to work in an industry where players can feel safe to talk about these issues. It goes without saying that we offer all our players the support they need in the difficult times but importantly we are working on education, resourcing and research to better understand how we do this."
Alex Malcolm is a freelance writer based in Melbourne