Mike Yardy, the England limited-overs all-rounder, became the latest cricketer yesterday to withdraw from the game suffering from depression. He left the World Cup suddenly, with the heartfelt sentiments of his colleagues for company on the flight home and with the cricket establishment wondering how much it can continue to expect of its international performers.
It came as a surprise – to the rest of the team as much as to the rest of the world – when the England and Wales Cricket Board announced that Yardy would depart immediately from Colombo, where England are preparing for a quarter-final tie against Sri Lanka tomorrow. He has struggled with the condition for some time and although there were no precise details it was clear that his long absence from home, both before and after Christmas, may have played a significant role.
Yardy, who is the captain of Sussex, has played 28 one-day internationals and featured in three of England's six World Cup matches so far. He has spent four days at home since early November when he left to play for Central Districts in New Zealand and later joined England's one-day squad, which played nine limited-overs matches in Australia and then left for the World Cup in India.
The ECB said in a statement: "The decision was taken in close consultation with the England medical team after it was agreed Yardy should return home immediately to receive the best possible advice and support as he seeks to overcome an illness he has been managing for a prolonged period of time."
Yardy is to be replaced in the squad by the Yorkshire leg-spinner, Adil Rashid, who had some success playing in Australia during their domestic Twenty20 tournament, and has recently been with the England Lions in the Caribbean. He will not arrive in time to be considered for tomorrow's match.
For Yardy, 30, the World Cup was likely to be the culmination of his international career. He was part of England's successful World Twenty20 team last year and came to the sub-continent as the recognised second spinner and a late middle-order batsman. Although his campaign has not gone quite according to plan, he had looked in good heart around the squad in training.
He said: "Leaving at this stage of a World Cup campaign was a very difficult decision to make but I felt that it was the only sensible option for me and I wanted to be honest about the reason behind that decision. I would like to wish the squad all the very best ahead of the game on Saturday. I would appreciate some privacy over the coming weeks while I spend time with family and close friends ahead of what I hope will be a successful season for Sussex."
The county issued a statement saying they would give Yardy all the time and support necessary. Their professional cricket manager, Mark Robinson, said: "Sussex are very proud of Michael Yardy and very supportive of his decision, not only to come home but also to be prepared to go public with the reasons.
"He's always been a person admired for his utmost honesty and integrity, and his courage in dealing with this issue emphasises that. As a club we request that everybody, including both supporters and the media, respects his privacy as he looks to spend some time with his family, having been away for five months."
Those sentiments were echoed by Mark Davies, director of communications and campaigns for the pressure group, Rethink Mental Illness. He said: "Mike Yardy deserves great credit for saying so clearly and honestly why he's leaving the tour is because of the illness he's struggling with. It will also have meant a lot to a lot of other sufferers who don't feel they can talk about it because of the stigma that is still attached."
Other cricketers to have left tours in recent years include the opening batsman, Marcus Trescothick, who did not immediately announce the nature of his illness when he left an England tour of India five years ago but has since campaigned vigorously on sufferers' behalf. Phil Tufnell was taken to a clinic on the 1994-95 tour of Australia.
Although the nature of Yardy's illness is as yet unknown, there were suggestions that he had taken a severe turn for the worse in the last few days. Davies said that long absences from home might have played their part.
"The fact that he has been away for so long could be a factor in his illness," he said. "The really important thing is that the cricket authorities put as much stress on their players' mental health as they do on their greatly enhanced physical fitness. There is obviously a definite improvement in that area but perhaps we need to edge closer to parity. There will be other Michael Yardys."
The ignorance of Yardy's colleagues about his struggles were revealed by Ravi Bopara, who only found out yesterday when a group message was sent round. "I noticed over the last day or couple of days that he wasn't 100 per cent Michael Yardy," he said.
"Normally he's quite bubbly and quite a busy character. But he hasn't been so busy the last couple of days – so I did notice something. But I didn't realise that it was to the extent that he needed to go home.
"I think players should be open about it anyway, because it can be a big problem. It's not a minor issue, something that you can look upon lightly. It can affect someone quite badly. It can affect their life." Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, was meeting Yardy on his arrival in England.
In a much less dramatic bulletin, the ECB said it expects Tim Bresnan, who has been suffering from a calf injury, to be fit to play on Saturday.
How tour has taken toll on England
Captain Andrew Strauss, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior and Jonathan Trott are England's sole survivors since the start of the Ashes tour.
Tour of Australia (104 days): 29 October 2010-9 February 2011.
Cricket World Cup (36 days*): 12 February-26 March (v Sri Lanka).
* potentially 44 days if England reach the final.
Total 140-148 days away, three at home.
England's comings and goings this winter:
Ashes S Broad, T Bresnan, G Swann, A Shahzad and C Tremlett injured; J Anderson returned home briefly to attend the birth of his child; L Plunkett called up as cover for Shahzad and Tremlett.
World Cup K Pietersen, S Broad, A Shahzad and M Yardy have gone home since the competition began; E Morgan, C Tremlett, J Dernbach and A Rashid have arrived.Reuse content