‘Players deal with accepting mental demons ,’ MS Dhoni on importance of mental conditioning coach
Former India captain MS Dhoni feels players in India continue to deal with mental health issues and insists there is no cure as long as people don’t accept it. Dhoni spoke on the topic during a session conducted by MFORE, a non-profit initiative offering Mind Conditioning Programs to achieve peak performance, launched by his one-time India and Chennai Super Kings teammate Subramaniam Badrinath.
Highlighting the importance of having a mental conditioning coach across all sports in India, Dhoni pointed out how having a certain individual specialising in the area, goes a long way in helping players deal with their situation/s better.
“In India, I feel there is still a big issue of accepting that there is some weakness when it comes to the mental aspects, but we generally term it as mental illness. Nobody really says that, when I go to bat, the first 5 to 10 deliveries my heart rate is elevated, I feel the pressure, I feel a bit scared because that’s how everybody feels - how to cope with that? This is a small problem but a lot of times we hesitate to say it to a coach and that’s why the relationship between a player and coach is very important be it any sport,” Dhoni said.
“Mental conditioning coach should not be the one who comes for 15 days, because when you come for 15 days you are only sharing the experience. If the mental conditioning coach is constantly with the player, he can understand what are the areas which are affecting his sport.”
Mental health is a topic that has affected some big names in cricket. Former England opener Marcus Trescothick was the first high-profile cricketer to deal with mental troubles in 2006, forcing him to retire at the peak of his game. During the 2013 Ashes, England’s Jonathan Trott faced something similar and decided to end his career abruptly. In September last year, England’s wicketkeeper-batter Sarah Taylor revealed she was battling anxiety issues and decided to walk away, followed by Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell announcing that he was taking a break due to “mental health issues”.
Maxwell’s admission was remarkable as per India captain Virat Kohli, who revealed that he had once battled mental demons himself during the forgettable tour of England in 2014. As someone who’s been extremely vocal about mental health and the importance of tackling it, Kohli lent his support to Badrinath for his initiative.
“I think mental health and mental clarity is the most important factor in life; not just in sports. Badrinath and MFORE helping these cricketers will go a long way in them understanding themselves better and going out there and performing despite the conditions and situations being difficult for them,” he said.
Offspinner Ashwin didn’t stay too far behind in his appreciation for his former Tamil Nadu and CSK teammate’s efforts either, terming his initiative “extraordinary”.
“It’s an extraordinary initiative on Badri’s behalf. Lot of people address skills, speak about the mental aspect of the game. But no one can really put a roadmap and say what really a cricketer needs mentally,” Ashwin explained.
“How can you disconnect the mind when you’re playing? These are things that are crucial for any athlete. Your mind constantly cross-questions you and gives negative vibes from inside which is only natural. So, to be able to create a platform for such people to ask for help is an amazing initiative. I urge people to be more honest about themselves and understand that they need help. Understanding and asking for help by itself is very courageous.”