Maddinson out of Pakistan tour fixture with mental health issues

Updated November 10, 2019

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South African players Hashim Amla (L) and captain Faf du Plessis (2nd R) shake hands with Australian's Usman Khawaja (2nd L) and Nic Maddinson at the end of play on the fourth day of the Third Test cricket match. — Reuters/File
South African players Hashim Amla (L) and captain Faf du Plessis (2nd R) shake hands with Australian's Usman Khawaja (2nd L) and Nic Maddinson at the end of play on the fourth day of the Third Test cricket match. — Reuters/File

PERTH: Nic Maddinson on Saturday pulled out of Australia ‘A’s clash against Pakistan in Perth on mental health grounds, all-but ruling him out of contention for a berth in the Test squad.

The middle-order batsman’s decision comes barely a week after Glenn Maxwell withdrew from Australia’s Twenty20 team to deal with similar issues.

Opening batsman Cameron Bancroft, who was dropped from the Test side during the Ashes in England, replaces Maddinson in the Australia ‘A’ XI for the three-day, day-night match against Pakistan starting from Monday at Perth Stadium.

“Nic has made the right decision and we are all behind him,” said Australia ‘A’ coach Graeme Hick. “It is braver to speak up than to suffer in silence and I applaud Nic for having the courage to put his health first.”

His withdrawal almost certainly rules him out of the opening Test against Pakistan in Brisbane later this month, with the Australia ‘A’ game widely seen as a final chance to impress selectors.

It opens the door to Travis Head or rising star Will Pucovski, who has also struggled with mental health issues in the past, to stake their case.

Maddinson’s decision followed Maxwell, one of the world’s best short-format most destructive batsmen, late last month opting to take a ‘short’ break from cricket to deal with similar challenges.

Alex Kountouris, Cricket Australia’s head of sports science and medicine, said the governing body was committed to better understanding mental health and supporting those needing help.

“Mental health is a challenge faced by Australian communities and elite sporting organisations and cricket is no different,” he 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. “

Maddinson, who played three Tests for Australia in 2016, has previously struggled with mental health issues and took a break from the game in 2017 after being dropped from the Test squad.

Governing body Cricket Australia (CA) said it supported the 27-year-old’s decision, which was relayed to team management on Friday.

Ben Oliver, Cricket Australia’s executive general manager of National Teams, said Maddinson would be afforded all the time and 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.”

In eight games for Victoria over the past two seasons, Maddinson had hit four hundreds, including a career-best 224 in their Shield season-opener earlier this month, for a total of 952 runs at 79.33.

“It’s hard sometimes to not think a little bit further ahead. I think people probably lie when they say they don’t. I definitely have,” Maddinson told SEN’s Whateley program before Victoria’s clash with Tasmania in Hobart, a match the defending champions lost. “Not just the past week, even the past six months or even before that. When you’re doing well you sort of have an eye on the future and where you want to end up as a goal.

“It is about scoring runs at the right time and being in the right place at the right time and when it presents yourself you’ve got to grab it. That’s what I didn’t do the last time I had the opportunity in the national team [in 2016].

“I’ve had to go away [and find] a really good method and game plan that works for me now in four-day cricket. I’ve just been implementing that.

“Just because you’re in the in Australia ‘A’ team doesn’t mean you’re automatically a Test selection. But to be involved in that group of players and on the list of batters they possibly could be looking at, that’s something I’m pretty proud of,” he added.

The first Test starts in Brisbane on Nov 21.

Australia’s T20 side routed Pakistan by 10 wickets in Perth on Friday to win their three-match series 2-0. The first match in Sydney was abandoned due to rain.

Published in Dawn, November 10th, 2019