Burnt out: Jonathan Trott walks off from the Gabba. Photo: AFP
I feel a little bit conned we were told Jonathan Trott's problems in Australia were a stress-related illness he had suffered for years. We were allowed to believe he was struggling with a serious mental health issue and treated him with sensitivity and sympathy. He was obviously not in a great place but he was struggling for cricketing reasons and not mental, and there is a massive difference. There is a danger we are starting to use stress-related illness and depression too quickly as tags for players under pressure.
In his interview with Sky Sports he then completely disrespected anybody who has gone through depression and mental illness by using words such as "nutcase" or "crazy". We have all said things we regret in the media but I find it staggering he is so ill-informed that he used those words. I have friends who have been diagnosed with depression. They are not nutcases or crazy. They have picked up an illness that is invisible to others but can be debilitating. We have seen other England cricketers suffer from depression and I do not think Trott realises just how important an issue it is.
I have no doubt he was going through hard times in Australia but as professional sportsmen playing in a high-profile, intense series such as the Ashes against good opposition you are going to endure stress when your form goes. It is part of the job. As a player there were many times I went back to my hotel room at night and broke down because I did not know where my next run was going to come from. I thought I was suffering from depression but I was just out of form. I thought my career was over because I felt I had been found out. I confessed to a couple of teammates but I never went to the captain and coach and said I'm giving up and have to go home. As captain I had players break down in front of me because they feared their profession was coming to an end.
Trott struggled against the fast bowling of Mitchell Johnson and holed out at deep square in the second innings of the Brisbane Test, Photo: Getty Images
Cricketers are paid to score runs and take wickets so when an opponent has the advantage, your judgment is clouded because you cannot see how you are going to find an escape.
When I hear players talking about burnout, I suspect it is an excuse. You never see players retiring from sport and talking about burnout when they are playing well. It always seems to happen when you are struggling for form and not scoring runs. That is the stress of playing high-profile sport. In fact, you could argue that burnout is more of an issue when you are in form because then you spend longer at the crease under physical and mental duress. The really good players dig in their heels in tough times and come out the other side.
Trott was failing on the biggest stage and he admitted that the previous occasion he suffered burnout was in South Africa in 2009-10, the only other time he has faced top-quality fast bowling.
He was in a bad state mentally in both series but also technically and until he corrects the faults in his game against fast bowling, he will not get any better. His initial movement is forward when you want to stand back as far as possible, and his head goes over to the off-side. Your technique looks after you in tough times but his is not good enough against fast bowling to see him through so the mental pressure increases.
Tough fast bowling is not nice. You have sleepless nights. I had them over facing Waqar Younis, Brett Lee and Shoaib Akhtar. You worry you will be embarrassed or could get hurt. But you have to accept it. If it goes wrong you get dropped, go away and become a stronger player.
Joe Root lost form in Australia. He tried to fight through it but was dropped. Matt Prior lost his place after three Tests. I am sure he would openly admit he went back to his room and broke down on a couple of occasions. But he accepted his fate, said he would come back fitter and stronger but more importantly stayed on tour.
What Trott will have to accept is that players in his own dressing room and in the opposition will look at him and think at the toughest of times he did a runner. He did not fight and got on a plane and went home. It is harsh but that is the reality.
It was wrong for him to brush it off and say England's match against Scotland in May would be a good time to return. Nobody has a given right to get back in the side. It is the England cricket team and he walked out. If he had stayed in Australia he would have been dropped. When a player is dropped he has to earn the right to get back in the side.
He is a good batsman but England will want to see him score many runs for Warwickshire. I would let him play a full year for Warwickshire. He will score a thousand runs and possibly rediscover his enjoyment for the game which is important because Trott is a player who takes cricket too seriously.
The "inner chimp" that Dr Stephen Peters, the sports psychiatrist, talks about is your inner voice which you have to control.
When it becomes noisy you suffer headaches, cannot cope and lose focus. The best players realise sport is their job but approach it as if they are still 15, when you used to play to entertain your parents or mates. Trott has to somehow rediscover the mindset of why he played the game as a kid and correct those technical faults if he is to play international cricket again.
The Telegraph, London