Thursday, September 28, 2017

Does English cricket have a drink problem?

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In the course of my day job I went to an event on the psychology and wellbeing of military personnel.

A session on mental health saw general agreement that the biggest issue facing the Forces in that field was alcohol misuse.

I thought of that when I heard about Ben Stokes, Alex Hales and the unpleasantness in Bristol the other evening.

Cricket shares many features with military life - slightly awkward male camaraderie, periods of boredom followed by periods of nerve-shredding excitement, public school officers - and alcohol seems to play the same central role in it.

Alcohol is used as a reward and a consolation, to oil the wheels of socialisation and quite possible to ease the nerves of the battle-scarred too.

When I reviewed Graeme Swann's book I wrote:
Judging by The Breaks Are Off, English cricket is awash with alcohol. If your county collapses, don’t demand extra net practice: ask for the batsmen to be breathalysed.
Since then I have read Graeme Fowler's Absolutely Foxed, which is even more drink sodden. It has many wise things to say about mental health, but I can't recall Fowler making any connections between the two subjects.

I also note that Swann and Matt Prior, central figures in the England team no so long ago, both rushed to defend Stokes on Twitter, as though he were a teenager at throwing out time rather than a millionaire athlete.

So when we have finished being shocked by Stokes and Hales, maybe we should admit that English cricket has a drink problem?


Cornishjim said...

Alcohol and the military really is a pope catholic question, but why do military (& maybe crickets) retreat to booze. Well first off a gin costs £1 - but more importantly it is the away from home (not operations/ exercises these are easy - focus/ something to do - most people in military would put these down as good times - granted others would not want to think back)as said boredom, back from work, gym, dinner, bar (or worst hide in your cabin). The weekly commute kills you.
This piece by former US Surgeon General ( seems very correct to me - it is about to hit our Navy command and may be something that help to move the debate on. BUT you never admit problems in the military (or sport probably) until you absolutely have too.
A psychiatric nurse once told she advised people to never admit there mental issue because of the effect on there employment, until this changes nothing does.

Anonymous said...

There are reports around of Ben Stokes claiming he intervened to stop some homophobic abuse - we shall see.

Perhaps the drink culture in cricket is a team 'thing' - can you envisage leading tennis players - who also spend a lot of time away from home travelling and playing at overseas tournaments - getting themselves into trouble through drinking more than the occasional glass of wine? I believe Andy Murray doesn't drink at all.

Frankly - any sports person who drinks more than very occasionally isn't serious about their sport - if they were serious about it they'd be keeping themselves in peak condition - and that includes eating and drinking appropriately.