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Stressed Trott pulls out of England’s Ashes tour

November 25, 2013

BRISBANE, Australia (AP) — A stress-related illness forced Jonathan Trott to quit the Ashes tour in the wake of England’s 381-run loss in the first test, when he was targeted for criticism by Australian batsman David Warner and in the media.

The 32-year-old Trott had batting failures in both innings, out for 10 and 9 to Mitchell Johnson in Brisbane after being exposed as being vulnerable to short-pitch bowling.

England collapsed in both innings, dismissed for 136 and 179 in a comprehensive defeat late Sunday to start the five-test series.

Warner used a news conference the previous evening to say the way Trott handled the fiery bowling was “weak” and that the England batsmen had “scared eyes.” The British press was highly critical of the mode of Trott’s dismissal.

The England Cricket Board on Monday issued a statement saying Trott would take a break from cricket “for the foreseeable future.”

“I don’t feel it’s right that I’m playing knowing that I’m not 100 percent and I cannot currently operate at the level I have done in the past,” Trott said in a statement. “My priority now is to take a break from cricket so that I can focus on my recovery.”

Trott, who was born and educated in South Africa, has been part of England’s three consecutive Ashes series wins. He made a century in his test debut against Australia in 2009, and scored two unbeaten centuries and a half century during England’s Ashes triumph in 2010-11 — its first in Australia in 24 years.

He averages 46 in his 49 tests, including nine centuries, but didn’t reach triple figures in the recent northern summer series against New Zealand and Australia and has been struggling for form.

The news of his departure was met with surprise and sympathy in Australia, But it’s unlikely to stop any verbal banter between the teams. The first test ended with players trading angry insults, with Australia captain Michael Clarke fined by the International Cricket Council for using an obscene word in an exchange with Jimmy Anderson that was picked up on the TV broadcast.

Both sides later conceded that the verbal attacks were part of every Ashes series, which dates back to the 1800s.

Australia coach Darren Lehmann said he likes his players to play aggressive “hard cricket” provided they don’t cross the line. After learning of Trott’s departure, he tweeted: “I wish Jonathon Trott a speedy recovery from a tough situation.”

England Cricket Board managing director Hugh Morris said “the cricket side of things is unimportant now.”

“All that matters is that Jonathan is given the time, support and space he needs to recover,” Morris said. “We fully support his decision to leave the tour and ... will provide all the assistance we can.”

Trott is the third England player to quit a tour in the last decade due to stress-related issues. Marcus Trescothick in 2006 and Michael Yardy withdrew from the World Cup in 2011.

England coach Andy Flower told the British media that Trott’s decision was not a result of Warner’s remarks, but condemned the way the Australian batsman used a news conference forum to comment on a rival player.

“Jonathan has been struggling with this condition for quite a while and has managed it very successfully but we’ve been on tour for about a month,” he said. “He’s had his ups and downs through that month.

“I would also say that I think players commenting about fellow professionals in the media is disrespectful. I think on this occasion (Warner) has got that horribly wrong.”

Trescothick played 76 test matches before he suddenly left a tour in India in 2006 due to a stress-related problems. He was included in the touring squad for the 2006-07 Ashes series in Australia but left with a recurrence of the illness. He never played another test.

He said an Ashes tour to Australia was definitely not a good place for somebody struggling with stress.

“This has got to be the biggest pressure that you can take on as an international cricketer, going to Australia with the pressure on for the Ashes and then being put under the scrutiny,” he told Britain’s Sky Sports. “It’s a very, very hostile environment in Australia when the whole of the country is battering you left, right and center.

“The media, the people in the hotels and then you go out to the cricket and you get that as well, so it is not easy at all and I can sympathize with him.”

He told BBC radio that the stress was “debilitating, it grinds you down.”

“There is no hiding place from it, 24/7. It will take time for him to get back on track again.”

Some former Australia players are famous for what is locally known as “sledging” — or verbally unsettling rival players. Former captain Stephen Waugh was widely known for the “mental disintegration” tactics he used to put rival players off their games. In the buildup to the first test of this series, the local newspaper launched a vitriolic tabloid campaign against England stars Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad. Trott could easily have been the next target.

Former England paceman Steve Harmison, who was taunted by crowds after bowling a poorly directed wide to open the 2006-07 Ashes series, told the BBC that stress and depression can cause major problems for players.

“When it gets you, it controls you,” he said. “And when it controls you, you’ve got no hiding place. You’ve got nowhere to go. You don’t sleep, you don’t eat... You think the world is on top of you.

“He’s done a brave and courageous thing. Coming out and saying what he’s done, and coming home.”

Former England captain Michael Vaughan was among the critics in the media.

“I do feel guilty for criticizing Trott this week,” Vaughan said. “I wasn’t to know what he was going through and I can only comment on what I see.”

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