National Cricket Academy (NCA) chief and former India captain Rahul Dravid has revealed that mental health issues of non-contracted and Under-19 players have been addressed through professional help amid the ongoing COVID-19 lockdown. It is an uncertain period for cricketers and capable of affecting them mentally, Dravid admitted during a Rajasthan Royals‘ webinar on mental health on Wednesday night. “It’s something we tried in this lockdown (addressing mental health of players through professionals). We identified outside of the contract list and with the U-19 players. We have the given the opportunity to connect to professionalism,” Dravid said.
“As a former cricketer I truly believe that former cricket players, cricket coaches don’t have the expertise to deal with the issues that some of the youngsters have these days. The right thing for us is to direct them to professionals and take it forward,” added the former India captain.
Stressing that mental health has been an issue in cricket, Dravid said it’s heartening to see frequent conversations around it now.
“It is a high pressure environment. In the past, there was a certain stigma associated to admit it but with a few players coming out definitely there has been some better conversation around it,” he said.
Dravid has been working on junior cricketers for a while, earlier as India U-19 and India A coach and now as NCA head. Dealing with the insecurities in his formative years was challenging for him and that is one of the reasons why he loves nurturing the young talent.
“It’s quite unnerving for a lot of young players which is why I love working with the Under-19 boys or India A who I think are going through the same amount of insecurities ‘whether I make it or not’.
“I kind of identify with them, that is something I had experienced myself as a young boy,” said Dravid. Dravid, who went on to become the ‘Wall of Indian cricket’, holds a graduate degree in commerce and was doing MBA when he was picked for India and he had to go through a long phase in first-class cricket.
“I think trying to get into the Indian team was one of the most challenging phases. I made my first class debut at the age of 17 or so… It took me about five years of first class cricket to play for India.
“If I look back, the most complicated time for me would be before when I played for India, when you had those risky decisions to take with doubts and insecurities around,” he recalled.
Dravid said committing to cricket completely was sort of a gamble for him at that point. “When you had the choices of going down with a career in something else and you commit to cricket and take that risky decision and go through with it.
“You had to sacrifice your education in some ways to take a punt, take a gamble on cricket. It kind of worked out. I never used that degree ever luckily,” he said.
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