Panesar taking expert help to overcome personal problems

Wednesday 09th December 2015 08:03 EST

Monty Panesar is a spinner of international standard who has been facing a lot of problems in his personal life. His story is among the saddest and most puzzling in English cricket recently. Panesar, the 33-year-old with 50 tests to his credit, should be in his prime, but because of his behavioural problems and alcoholism no county is willing to have him in their side.

Stories from Sussex and Essex, his past two counties, do not make happy reading. He acknowledges the problems and stresses that both counties did their best for him. He admits that he needed professional help and has been in the process of doing that, with the help of an experienced team of four: a performance coach; a hypnotherapist; a psychiatrist and a psychotherapist.

“For a long time I was in denial that I had a problem,” he says. “It was in my first session with the hypnotherapist that I began to realise that something was wrong and that I needed help. The best way to describe it is that I have suffered from feelings of paranoia, and that these feelings were linked to my performances on the field.”

So accepting that he had problems beyond the ordinary - that he needed professional help to overcome them, he took time out and began taking regular medication from the early part of the summer. He says, happily, that he has noticed a huge difference lately; his family have also noticed the difference. “I feel calmer; more mature, more in control,” he says. Neil Burns, the former Leicestershire and Somerset cricketer now acting as Panesar’s mentor, agrees.

These are medical issues beyond my expertise but, talking to Panesar, it is easy to recognise some aspects of his life as a professional cricketer, shared by many others, that must have contributed to his feelings of isolation and difficulty. Those around him are helping him to deal with these, particularly the side-effects of an unhealthy obsession with a game that is demanding more of its participants.

This is a young man who moved away from home and close-knit family, suffered a painful divorce and found his international career stagnating frustratingly after a stellar start. He lacked close friends. There is an awful sadness listening to him talk: “I’d be in my room a lot, always thinking about cricket and bowling. I found I got on with most players, but I didn’t have any particularly close friends,” he says. “Those that I spent most time with were often tied up with my job: the wicketkeepers I’d work with, my bowling partners.

“When it came to the off season, I was thinking who are my friends? I’d like that to change. Would I go for fewer wickets and more friends in cricket? That’s something I’ve thought a lot about.”

Balance in life is essential but modern professional cricket, with its increasing demands, does not make that easy.

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