Ashes 2013-14 comment: The case of Jonathan Trott has shone a light on the thug culture of 'sledging'

It was announced that the England batsman would leave the tour due to a stress related illness

Let’s be clear. It was not David Warner’s sledging that led to Jonathan Trott’s abrupt exit from the Ashes front line. Trott was said to be suffering from stress. So stigmatised is the term “depression” we had to find a polite way of sending Trott home.

Professional athletes are operating in extremis at a level of intensity and scrutiny beyond the comprehension of ordinary folk. Any weakness or frailty, be it technical or mental, is ruthlessly exposed. Some, such as Trott’s fellow cricketer Marcus Trescothick and footballer Stan Collymore, have spoken openly about their struggles at the top end of the food chain. The wonder is more sportsmen and women do not suffer a similar unravelling.

Any who has stood on the first tee in the monthly medal and tried to get a shot away under the gaze of playing partners and rivals will know a fraction of what professional sporting pressure is. Any who has walked to the middle in club cricket and taken guard knowing that 11 blokes are making instant judgments about YOU, might at least recognise the potential for trouble.

The comparison is crass, of course, but multiply the intensity by a factor of thousands and you might just be standing at the crease with Trott, who has spent weeks, months, maybe years going round in ever decreasing circles of personal space before this moment of crisis.

The cricketing life imposes its own unique strains given the long stretches in which participants are removed from their domestic setting. Trescothick, who bravely outlined his own despair in his book Coming Back To Me, is the industry expert on dealing with stress and depression on the road.

We should thank the sledgers for bringing into view an illness that afflicts millions and is too often filed and forgotten under the sanitised banner “mental health issue”. In the main, the hardened nature of the alpha male protects against the inane chirping of inadequate bullies in the sporting context. Most laugh it off or meet fire with fire. Warner is self-evidently an offensive, boorish creature but is a symptom, not the cause, of cricket’s dated attachment to outmoded rules of machismo.

The real courage inheres in Trott, admitting to a condition that carries unacceptable stigma and returning home to fight a battle that for many is never completely won. We wish him well in his struggle. Warner is probably lost to us forever, sledging himself silly in his swamp of incivility.

He wasn’t to know that Trott was torn by personal crisis, but at least the England batsman’s departure has shone a light on a thug culture that has nothing to do with competitive spirit. Armed with a forthright sense of what so many believe Aussieness to be, Warner felt it acceptable to belittle and embarrass an opponent on the field with the tacit understanding that this falls within the limits of legitimate behaviour.

Warner was the kid who ran around the schoolyard terrorising sensitive souls with cries of “scaredy cat, scaredy cat”. That attack on Trott showed he still occupies the same mental space.

Trott was fortunate he didn’t take a right hand on the whiskers, which was the fate of Joe Root last summer when Warner waded into the youngster’s personal space and punched him in a night spot.

Warner’s captain, Michael Clarke, leads by example, threatening to break the arm of opponents out in the middle. Clarke felt the exchange with Jimmy Anderson fell within the parameters of sporting conduct, though he has subsequently been fined 20 per cent of his match fee. That’ll cure him. Not. Warner subsequently muttered something of an apology saying he might have gone too far. Perhaps he and Clarke are feeling a little more contrite today.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little