Jonathan Trott, after acceding that he is unable to continue playing the Ashes, has been both sympathised with and pilloried since.
The Australian players and media are going about their business in witless fashion, and many people, because of the timing, seem to suggest that the pressure-cooker environment of the Gabba Test brought his issues on; others accept that there is a deeper problem which needs deeper attention.
Andrew Strauss wrote in his column on Sunday sympathising with Trott. Quite rightly he stated that it is difficult for the public to understand the life of a professional athlete.
Predictably, it is seen by many to be a perfect life: glamourous, exciting and full of variation. People are inspired by and look up to athletes. How could anyone walk away from one of the biggest sporting contests? How can this life not be fantastic? Many people would give anything to play sport as a job.
People are justified in saying this. Playing sport for a living is a wonderful thing. When I don’t fancy another tough session I try to remember the rich experiences that come with a professional career.
But there are things people who have never played sport in this way, can’t know or understand.
My comment above was: ‘Many people would give anything to play sport for a living’. Well this isn’t necessarily true, otherwise they may well have done so. Opportunity or environment is a key factor in creating top achievers, but what makes many a professional athlete stand out is that they committed to endless hard work during their early lives.
Many of the people who say ‘I should have’ or ‘I would do anything to play sport’ are kidding themselves; many weren’t able to go through the excessive amounts of work necessary.
Secondly, sportspeople are doing their sport full time.
It is never a recreational thing.
It’s possible to love doing something very strongly, but start to play it for hours daily ten years straight and that love is challenged.
Thirdly, athletes are always reaching to find excellent performance, and so much of the time they work to extremes of intensity. Many of the public have more level, routine jobs and do not reach the same highs and lows all of the time.
Fourthly, and especially in Trott’s case, he and his team must deal with media scrutiny. How many of the public have to read reports and analysis about themselves in public newspapers daily?
Easy to see how occasionally an athlete like Trott might need a break.
The opening of my book featured a melodramatic description of a time when I had simply played too much squash, training my head off all summer and playing myself to death in the winter.
At some point I gave in, mentally and physically. It didn’t matter how much I loved the game, I would soon fall out of love with it if I kept playing and training like that.
Trott has been playing an immense amount recently. The team have already been in Australia for over a month, and will be there another three. It’s a long time away, playing game after game. It is only a game. He has a child. Maybe it shouldn’t need to be this all-consuming.
Even athletes with ‘the best jobs in the world’ glance over the other side of the fence from time to time, especially when the workload is too heavy, like it has been for Trott.
I’ll admit that I have gone in to one or two six-hour training days wondering what it might be like just to sit in a warm office for the day staring at a computer!
Perhaps Trott has gone too far to fleetingly allay such thoughts. Let’s hope a break can do him good.