Feeling so sorry for Jonathan Trott. This fine cricketer is taking another break after realising that he has not recovered from the stress-related issues that plagued his Ashes tour.
The Mail, to which I won't link yet, suggests that Trott has suffered from "anxiety attacks". Trott's own statement says it's anxiety. No particular symptoms given. But the thought that Trott might have been facing short-pitched bowling at 90mph plus, while trying to cope with any of the symptoms of anxiety? I mean, anxiety is perfectly ratonal when some hulking Antipodean is throwing lumps of cork and leather at your head. Add to that a genuine anxiety condition, and no wonder your game would go to pot.
And then knowing that, if you fail, the Daily Mail is going to Photoshop Death in behind your picture, isn't going to help. And then knowing that, since you have no physical signs - at least, not early on, people are gonna think, if you say you can't do it, that you're just a quitter? What pressure does that pile on?
We put a lot on top sportspeople. They're not our false gods, mostly - but we do see them as our representatives, our totems. And then, when they let us down, we make sure they know all about it. Think of Brendan Foster's comments on Mo Farah, or the way that our local hero, Paula Radcliffe, got flack for a perfectly reasonable bodily function in a long race.
And then, male sport in particular being so macho - how hard is it to spot that your own mental health has gone past the reasonable and possibly helpful " under some pressure " to the unreasonable - especially when, by definition, your sense of proportion has gone? A problem in any macho culture, where saying you can't cope is weakness. And that macho culture can be business, or the Church, or sport. And maybe especially it weighs on you in cricket - a team game, yet won and lost on a thousand individual actions and decisions. A game where one bad decision means your own skill - which may be honed for thousands of hours in the nets - won't be needed for another week.
So prayers for Jonathan Trott and his family. This time he needs to take a proper break. If that break is for good, it's up to him. If he comes back - even just to the county game, even just to play on a park on a Sunday afternoon - good for him. A human being is more important than the world. How much more so, than a game.