England received a major blow ahead of their five-Test home series against India, with their talisman all-rounder Ben Stokes taking an indefinite break from all forms of cricket to priortise his "mental well-being".
Just a few days back, another high profile athlete Simeone Biles pulled out of gymnastics events at Tokyo Olympics 2020, once again sparking a debate regarding the mental health of sportspersons. While the exact reason for her withdrawal wasn't revealed initially, the US gymnast later revealed that she was experiencing twisties, a mental condition that happens when the body and mind become disconnected.
Now legendary India batsman Sunil Gavaskar has said that if top players like Stokes could spell out the reason behind their mental health struggles, it would help others facing a similar situation to open up and seek help.
"What would help others who are undergoing a similar kind of situation is if the actual reason for this mental health thing was pointed out by these players. For example, is it fear of failure, is it the burden of expectations, is it the fear of opposition or the fear of injuries? These are some of the things that can cause mental stress.
"So if Stokes could come out and say this is the reason, it will help a lot of younger players who would be undergoing the same situation, they would think it's not just them, and that even a great player like Stokes is facing a situation like these. When you just say mental health, it's a general issue, so I hope somebody would be able to pinpoint the reason and that will certainly help the others," Gavaskar said during a virtual press conference.
Match-up between Virat Kohli and James Anderson
The intriguing battle between Virat Kohli and James Anderson has been frequently dissected by cricket analysts.
The veteran English seamer was the arch-nemesis of Kohli during India's tour of England in 2014, accounting for the Indian four times in the Test series. The skipper, however, came back in style in 2018, looking much more assured and finishing as the highest-run getter of the series with 593 runs.
The rivalry will once again be on display when the first Test kicks off in Nottingham on 4 August. And once again, it is Kohli who will come out on top, reckons Gavaskar.
"Looking at the way Kohli adapted in 2018, looking at how he was so certain around the off stump and how his shot selection was so immaculate, I would back him," said the batting legend.
"With Anderson as a fast bowler getting three years older and Kohli getting three years more experienced, and given batsmen are around their peak in this age group of 28-33/34, I do think that Kohli will come out trumps," he further reasoned.
History hasn't been on India's side. The last time they clinched a Test series in England was in 2007. This was followed by horror defeats (4-0 and 4-1 in 2011 and 2018 respectively). However, just like they did in Australia, the Indians would be itching to prove that they can't be dismissed as 'lions at home and lambs abroad'.
Gavaskar had accurately predicted the scoreline (2-1) of India's Test series triumph against Australia. So, what's his prediction for the upcoming series?
The 72-year-old feels that weather conditions might play a key role, but regardless, India will have the upper hand.
"I left England about 10 days ago and the weather was hot most of the time. I've been told it's raining now. So if the weather conditions are hot for the 22 of the 25 possible days, then India will win 4-0. In case you have a situation where the weather is going to be a factor, then India will win 3-1.
"Regardless, India would want to win since England are a very depleted side (in absence of Stokes, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes)."
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