'Pain and self-loathing pushed me to brink,' says Craig Spearman

Former Kiwi batsman admits to gambling addiction as PCA begins the fightback

English cricketers are being urged to seek help to overcome gambling addictions. The revelation that the former Test batsman, Craig Spearman, was a compulsive gambler at the height of his career was coupled with calls for others to come forward.

Spearman will be used as a kind of poster boy in a campaign by the Professional Cricketers' Association to encourage players to recognise the symptoms and take action. The PCA already has a confidential helpline which members can call with personal problems.

Several players have admitted difficulties with gambling. Although there is no suggestion that it is linked with illegal betting activities in Asia on cricket matches, the PCA are painfully aware that a player in debt is a player exposed to other forces.

"It's caused me and people around me huge heartache," said Spearman. "At times the pain and self-loathing has pushed me to the brink. I've tried many types of therapy, some of which were good and some not so good.

"In recent times learning and understanding myself as an individual and adhering to strict disciplines has led me away from gambling and onto a better path for the future."

The PCA have been passionately pro-active in recent years in helping players to cope with the peculiar demands of being a professional sportsman in the modern world.

They have been at the forefront in dealing with the perils of depression, encouraged initially by the brave contributions of Marcus Trescothick, the Somerset captain and former England batsman, whose international career was ended because of his illness. It is hoped that Spearman, who played 70 times for New Zealand including 19 Test matches, and batted with huge distinction for Gloucestershire in the 2000s will have a similar effect as an ambassador for those with gambling difficulties.

"This is not an anti-gambling crusade," said the PCA's assistant chief executive, Jason Ratcliffe, who is orchestrating their campaign. "We are bombarded with the chance to bet in our email inboxes all the time. It is all around us and it is very easily accessible."

The unspoken fear is that young cricketers may be especially susceptible to betting, which goes too far beyond the traditional game of poker in rain breaks. They have a bit of spare cash and despite the rigours of the professional game they also have plenty of time on their hands during and between matches.

It is straightforward to make the leap between cricket and the Asian betting markets. Spearman has admitted his addiction now partly for his own benefit but mostly because he thinks he can send a message to other players.

"Being an international cricketer, and then coming here from New Zealand I didn't initially have a lot of friends. You're always on the move," Spearman said. "I always found that if I had time off or wanted to escape, wherever I was in the world there was a chance to go and gamble. It was a recreational activity as much as anything else in my time off.

"You know the feeling when you leave a movie theatre, come out of the darkness and hit the real world again. To me it was like that, go and gamble and then hit the real world again. I wanted to go there to escape something that was going on."

Spearman, speaking as part of a gambling tutorial on the PCA website, admitted that his watershed year was in 2005 when his wife was in hospital after suffering a brain haemorrhage. His career was still flourishing and only the year before he had ensured his place in cricket's annals by playing the highest innings in Gloucestershire's history.

His 341 overtook the 318 of WG Grace which had stood as the county's individual record for 128 years. But something was wrong and it had been wrong for several years by then. Spearman had suddenly recognised it in late 1996.

"I can pinpoint the day where it went over the line from being recreational to a problem. We stopped over in Cairns on our way to a tour of Pakistan. I lost a lot of money but fortunately won it all back the day before we were due to go. From then on I knew there were some issues."

By giving this case publicity, the PCA hope to deal with what may be a much wider problem than anybody yet realises. Although there is no concrete evidence to suppose there are any more gambling addicts in cricket than in the rest of the society – about one per cent of the population – the stresses and temptations are different.

Ratcliffe said: "Hopefully, Craig speaking out about his difficulties will help his own healing and also encourage other people within our cricketing family to address their issues. We hope that the knock-on effect will be to raise more awareness amongst the nation, the gambling industry and ultimately alert the government about the serious dangers of gambling."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
peopleStella McCartney apologises over controversial Instagram picture
Arts and Entertainment
Hayley Williams performs with Paramore in New York
musicParamore singer says 'Steal Your Girl' is itself stolen from a New Found Glory hit
Ronaldinho signs the t-shirt of a pitch invader
footballProof they are getting bolder
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
indybestKeep extra warm this year with our 10 best bedspreads
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
voicesBy the man who has
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
people'I’d rather have Fred and Rose West quote my characters on childcare'
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

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?