On the day that Robin Uthappa spoke publicly about his battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, Dodda Ganesh, former India Test cricketer has opened up about his mental challenge too. The former Karnataka Ranji team seamer shared his mental battle after not finding a place in the Indian team despite 'ticking all the boxes in domestic cricket'.
In a series of tweets, Ganesh wrote, "Had to pen down this after seeing various cricketers confessing that they’d suicidal thoughts in their days out of the Indian team. Well, let me share my experience. I, too, was dropped from the Indian team, in 1997. And, I did not step out of my house for a month, in despairity [sic]."
"For me — it was the end of the world. I couldn’t stomach the fact that I was discarded without a fair run at the top level. But I was only 23 then and knew I’d a lot of cricket left in me — with age on my side. I decided to burn the midnight oil."
"And with sheer hard work I’d stupendous seasons in 1997, 1998 and 1999. In 1999, where Karnataka ended up being the Ranji champions, I’d picked up a total of 63 wkts (a record for a seamer back then), and was dreaming of a World Cup berth. But it was not to be."
"I was not considered worthy of a comeback. All I could manage was — make the cut for a few India-A tours. It was a dagger through my heart to see bowlers who’d picked much lesser wickets than me being rewarded with the Indian cap."
"Remember, I, too, was in my mid-20s then and young enough for a comeback. Later, with Karnataka being relegated to the plate group post 2000, my dream of an international comeback faded away in front of my eyes."
"There was no IPL back then, to care of your finances and also showcase your talent in a different format. And if you couldn’t attract the selectors’ attention during the domestic season —you’d to wait for another yr. And with every passing yr my frustration grew by leaps & bounds"
"I was ticking all the boxes on the field but couldn’t cut the ice with the selectors. By the time I was touching 30 I learnt to make peace with myself. Once, I looked at myself in the mirror & asked myself — why did I pick-up a cricket ball and bowled bare-footed as a teenager."
"What was it that quenched my thirst and hunger. What made me cycle for tens of kms daily for practice. The answer was unanimous — it was the sheer love for the game that made me take up cricket, and not the money the game entails."
"And, I felt — irrespective of the level of the game I was playing I should enjoy that I was still playing this beautiful game. So guys who’re struggling with depression of being out of the national reckoning, please understand there’s life beyond crkt. Live for your loved ones."
Ganesh made his Test debut against South Africa in 1997 and played just the four Tests picking up five wickets. His solitary appearance in limited-overs cricket came against Zimbabwe in 1997 where he picked one wicket. In domestic cricket, however, he amassed 365 wickets in first-class cricket before calling time to his career in 2007.
He earned attention during the 1996-97 Irani Trophy where he picked 11 wickets including that of VVS Laxman and Navjot Singh Sidhu.
Uthappa and Ganesh are not standalone cases in Indian cricket of players finding it tough to deal with mental challenges and considering suicide. Former India seamer Praveen Kumar had considered killing himself with a gun after being easily forgotten and not making it to the international side for eight years.
New Zealand legend Richard Hadlee talked of having contemplated suicide during his cricketing career. Australia’s Glenn Maxwell took a break from the game to recover from depression. Last year, soon after Maxwell’s decision, India captain Virat Kohli shared his own vulnerabilities at the end of the 2014 England tour. In the middle of a run drought, Kohli felt “like the end of the world.” The skipper added he hadn’t been in a position to admit he “was not feeling great mentally” and so just got on with the game.
England's Sarah Taylor has had her own share of battles with anxiety and mental health and has been seen championing its awareness along also battling the stigma attached to the illness. Taylor's case has been well documented over the years, while Australia's opener Nicole Bolton opened up, in 2019, on her mental health-related issues.
There have others in Marcus Trescothick, Johnathan Trott, Moises Henriques who have made their bouts with mental illness public.
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