Former Indian cricket team captain Sourav Ganguly is still credited for his achievements with the Indian team. He is credited for his mental toughness with which he led the Indian side that fearlessly challenged the top teams in the world. However, it seems, with age, Ganguly's competitive nature is getting the better of him.
The current BCCI president Sourav Ganguly on Tuesday caused an uproar by stating that overseas players "just give up on mental health". Ganguly was speaking at a virtual press conference on Tuesday, when he said this.
Commenting on the challenges players face at the moment by moving from one bio-bubble environment to another in the current Covid-19 climate, he claimed Indian cricketers are "more tolerant" to deal with movement restricted solely to the hotel and grounds.
Ever since the international cricket resumed, the players have been forced to stay in bio-bubbles, where their life is restricted to hotels and stadiums. They do not have access to people outside the bubble, making it extremely difficult for players to stay fresh and motivated.
"I feel we Indians are a bit more tolerant than overseas (cricketers). I've played with a lot of Englishmen, Australians, West Indians, they just give up on mental health," the former India captain said at a virtual promotional event here.
"In the last six-seven months, with so much cricket being going on in the bio-bubble it's so tough. Just going from the hotel room to the ground, handle the pressure and come back to the room and then get back to the ground again, it's an absolutely different life."
Ganguly further cited the example of the Australia cricket team who pulled out of their tour to South Africa following their defeat to India at home.
Australia were slated for a three-Test tour in March-April but they pulled out citing an "unacceptable level of health and safety risk to players, support staff and the community".'
"Look at the Australian team, they were supposed to go to South Africa for a Test series after India played there. They refused to go there…
"And always there's this scare of Covid-19 – 'hope it's not me the next time'. You have to stay positive, you have to train yourself mentally. All of us have to train ourselves mentally so that the good will happen. It boils down to training," Ganguly said.
The former India skipper further recalled the biggest setback in his career when he was stripped of his captaincy in 2005 and was eventually dropped but only to make a splendid return.
"You just have to deal with it. It's the mindset that you get into. Life has no guarantees, be it in sport, business or whatever. You go through ups and downs. You just have to bite the bullet. Pressure is a huge thing in everybody's life. All of us go through different pressures.
"When you play your first Test, it's the pressure of making yourself established and making the world know that you belong at this level.
"And when you go to that level after playing many number of matches, it's about keeping up the performances. A little bit of a blip and it doesn't stop people from scrutinising you and that adds to athletes in a long way," he added.
Ganguly's comments drew flak all over social media. His comments were not taken lightly by those who have been through severe mental health issues or those who take it seriously than Ganguly.
Why Ganguly should be more careful speaking about mental health?
Ganguly's comments come at a time when people have slowly started to talk about mental health. We have seen players like Virat Kohli, PV Sindhu, Abhinav Bindra talking about it even competing at the most elite level of the sport. His comments further makes it hard for players to talk about the issue by disassociating the stigma around it.
According to an estimate by the World Health Organization (WHO), mental illness makes about 15% of the total disease conditions around the world. The same estimate also suggests that India has one of the largest populations affected from mental illness. As a result, WHO has labelled India as the world's 'most depressing country'. Moreover, between 1990 to 2017, one in seven people from India have suffered from mental illness ranging from depression to anxiety. It is no exaggeration to suggest that the country is under a mental health epidemic.
The first and foremost reason for India to lose its mental health is the lack of awareness and sensitivity about the issue. There is a big stigma around people suffering from any kind of mental health issue. This leads to a vicious cycle of shame, suffering, and isolation of the patients. Also, there is a serious shortage of mental healthcare workforce in India. According to WHO, in 2011, there were 0·301 psychiatrists and 0·047 psychologists for every 100,000 patients suffering from a mental health disorder in India. These issues aggravate the scale of the problem and need immediate redressal.
Players are constantly battling mental health issues as well and each one has a unique set of challenges. What Ganguly said, dismisses the seriousness of mental health which otherwise has to be taken seriously.