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Steve Harmison, former England bowler, reveals how he battled clinical depression

Steve Harmison, former England fast bowler, reveals he once thought about crashing his car on the way to the airport to earn a few extra days at home.

cricket Updated: Jun 25, 2017 18:20 IST
HT Correspondent
Steve Harmison represented England in 63 Tests and 58 ODIs.
Steve Harmison represented England in 63 Tests and 58 ODIs. (Getty Images)

Former England cricketer Steve Harmison has revealed at the time when he was at the top in the world rankings for bowlers in 2004, he was struggling with depression to such an extent that he considered crashing his car on the way to the airport to travel for a series in South Africa. The thought came into Harmison’s mind only to earn a few extra days at home.

Harmison, who played 63 Tests, 58 ODIs and two T20Is for England from 2002-2009, revealed in his recently-published autobiography ‘Speed Demons’ that cricket saved him on many occasions.

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Harmison wrote in his autobiography, “What was actually sat in that car was a broken shell. A person who had turned himself inside out in despair that the thing he was so good at was also the thing that made him ill, that took him away from everything he loved.”

Even though Harmison had claimed seven for 12 at Jamaica to help England bowl the West Indies out for a mere 47, he was suffering from what turned out to be clinical depression. Harmison said cricket, in more than one way, was a getaway for him.

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He told TheDaily Mail, “Cricket saved me in every way. My release was 11 o’clock when I went out there on the pitch. It was where I could get away from myself and my thoughts. I always wanted a room full of people. It’s why I brought a darts board on tour. I wanted to attract people to me. When I was alone, I was a nightmare. Cricket kept me sane — or as sane as I could be.”

Only a few close to Harmison were aware of how bad things were for the burly fast bowler. Those who were aware included Harmison’s wife Hayley, and England teammates Andrew Flintoff and Rob Key.

“If I’d said I’d had an illness, instead of people banging on about me being homesick, I’d never have played for England again, no chance. It was the days of one bad game and you were out. Lots of people didn’t understand at the time, and I didn’t want it to override my cricket. And all these so-called experts and former players talking about weakness and illness… having that tag was hurtful,” Harmison said.

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He added, “Coming out the other side was the biggest achievement. My career was full of ridiculous highs and unbelievable lows, but in the end I got through it. I did what I needed to do.”

The fast bowler who claimed 226 wickets in Test cricket and 76 in ODIs, has called upon the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to look after the cricketers who have busy calendars more often than not.

Harmison said, “Guys like Stokes, Root, Bairstow, Buttler, they’re going away for six months. It’s a ridiculous time to be away, especially if, like Joe, you’ve just had a kid. It’s important the ECB look after their assets, because that’s what they are: they attract the next generation.”