Play­ers must fo­cus on life be­yond game

Mercury (Hobart) - - SPORT - ROBERT CRADDOCK

A THROW­AWAY line from Tim Paine about the pres­sures of a “cricket only’’ life has spot­lighted why the game must con­tinue its push to broaden the minds of Aus­tralia’s best young play­ers.

Test cap­tain Paine has emerged as an un­ruf­fled Joe Cool who han­dles the good and bad days with the same im­pla­ca­ble de­meanour. But he ad­mits there were times when a nar­row cricket-fo­cused life put ex­treme pres­sure on him and shack­led his nat­u­ral game.

“I think go­ing back to when I was 16 or 17 I wish I knew what I knew now,’’ Paine said re­cently. “I would have been a lot bet­ter at school, be­cause I think hav­ing some­thing else in my life would have al­le­vi­ated some of the pres­sure I put on my­self to per­form at cricket and would have al­lowed me to go out and play a lit­tle bit more fear­lessly, which I would have loved to be able to do but ... I’ve al­ways had all my eggs in one bas­ket.’’

It’s this very issue Cricket Aus­tralia is try­ing to tackle in a fresh push to get play­ers to spend eight hours a week ei­ther pre­par­ing for life after cricket or putting back into the com­mu­nity. It’s not an Earthshat­ter­ing move but it is a step in the right di­rec­tion as the game tack­les its con­fronting men­tal health cri­sis.

When he joined a list of 46 Aus­tralian Test cap­tains, Paine’s name sat be­side men whose pro­fes­sions in­cluded shop­keeper, phar­ma­cist, crime re­porter, book­maker, plumber, in­vest­ment con­sul­tant, gra­zier, post­man, den­tist, clerk, whisky agent, bank of­fi­cer, solic­i­tor and sales pro­mo­tion of­fi­cer.

The days of the sports­man who can suc­cess­fully jug­gle work and play are gone and they are not com­ing back.

But as a fa­mous writer once said: “If all you know is cricket, what do you re­ally know?’’

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