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Friday, 29 November 2013

Trott and Whatnot...

It's tricky to condone punching someone in public, even when it's done in the defence of Hashim Amla. It's also a bit of a stretch to condone one professional chiding another for being "weak". It's probably even harder to bring yourself to dislike David Warner, though, despite both the above incidents. He might not also have a perfect record on Twitter, as has been meticulously and highly sniggeringly detailed, but any man who gets Malcolm Conn to engage about anything other than English players' urinary habits is deserving of both our respect and gratitude. 

Australia apparently won the First Test because they beat their chests with boomerangs whilst singing Under The Southern Cross and spitting on meterosexuals. There's probably something in the theory that by testosteroning up they drowned both England, their summer ashes 3-0 debacle and earlier Indian homework farce in an ejaculate of hormones, but that's really to give them too much credit. England's batting was just a shambolic concubine of acquiescence in Brisbane, and Australia merely had to do the necessary to turn them over. It doesn't follow that Darren Lehmann is somehow now a hybrid of Mike Brearley, Freud and Machiavelli, as some have attempted to make out. 

Australia have clearly tried to be, whatever the term may mean, more like men's men, and the most manliest of men for other men in a masculine sense has been Warner. He just loves it. You can see the twinkle in his eye when Root comes to the crease. No sense of remorse for his Birmingham haymaker, just titillation that he got away with it and can now stand two feet away from someone he's chinned whilst chuntering in his ear. That's not to condemn him or even suggest Root is that bothered, but, for Warner, there is the pitch and the match and it is all simple and for the win. He made a brilliant ton. He's a jock with a bit of wit about him. He's admirable. 

He's clearly not a simplistic man, though, but some things can seem simple to even those who love turtles. On Friday he gave what appeared to be a heartfelt press conference where he wished Jonathan Trott well and admitted some contrition about his earlier baiting words, whilst justifiably and understandably making clear he was unaware of the stress-related condition that had forced the England batsman to return home. "We didn't know anything about an illness or whatnot...," he said, which was probably the best encapsulation of how many people must feel about mental health issues. What is this whatnot that others have? What is this peculiar something that makes even the greatest sportsmen leave their sport? How can they be so selfish? It seems petty and ungrateful to walk away from your-nation-and-the-money-and-the-fame-and-the-fame-and-the-money-and-your-nation, although when cricketers do these days the ire is usually turned on those who disbelievingly ask those questions. I'm not even sure that's much better, to be frank. Those who condemn people for having mental illness generally do so from ignorance rather than hate. Hatefully condemning them for their own ignorance seems almost as unproductive as the archaic attitudes they evince. But it's a pickle for all. 

Depression and stress are like debt. They affect those around the individual involved even if their own bank or mental balance is perfectly fine. It's mere, and hopefully incorrect, conjecture, but one suspects this hasn't been an easy week for Jonny Bairstow either, as the focus on Trott's troubles may well have made him recall his own father David's suicide in 1998. Reading headlines in the Australian media such as the Sydney Daily Telegraph's glib "Trott takes his ball and goes home" can't sit easily with anyone who has had to endure the mental illness of a loved one and, without wishing Bairstow to have to further revisit such a terrible ordeal, it would perhaps have been the most educative thing possible to have heard him counter some of the ignorance, not by the commendable but visceral rounding on insensitivity we've seen, but by simply talking about what it was like to experience seeing someone you love driven to the ultimate expression of despair. 

People all get desperate sometimes. When David Warner does he lashes out in pubs or tweets expletives to journalists. He's clearly one of the lucky ones. Let off a bit of steam and wink at Joe Root the next time he walks to the crease. For Trott, Marcus Trescothick, Michael Yardy and millions of others there's only one person they ever truly want to take things out on. Trott's achievement by having the courage to go home is to hopefully make people understand a little bit better just exactly who that one person is. 

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