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Cricket news - Langer wishes for no indignity in saying 'I am not okay'

Langer wants clear protocols for mental health issues, just like it is for concussion now.

In the wake of Glenn Maxwell, Nic Maddinson and Will Pucovski's withdrawals from cricket on mental health grounds, some of Australia's top stars and coach Justin Langer have opened up on the challenges faced by players in today's environment, and the pressing need to address them.

Langer called for a clear protocol to deal with mental health - as there is for concussion - to make it easier for players to step forward and be open about their issues, while stressing how the players wellbeing was more important than a game of cricket.

"It's a complex issue - it's like concussion," Langer said. "There's a really clear protocol on concussion now and I'm really hopeful, in a really complex matter of mental health, that we can get to a point where there's really clear protocols and there's no stresses about it, there's no indignity in saying 'I'm not okay'.

"And then we work out how guys can return to play, whether it's in the shorter term or in the longer term. I'm sure that's what we're all searching for, to make sure that we get that protocol right. I said it one of our players today, at the end of the day the health of our players and the wellbeing is much more important to me than another game of cricket. We saw it with Steve Smith - we would have loved Steve Smith to play the third Test of the Ashes, of course. But it was so clear that he wasn't right, it was an easy decision. We lost a tough game but it was a no-brainer, and I hope we can get to that point with mental health as well."

With the off-season window rapidly diminishing from the international calendar, along with the proliferation of various T20 leagues, it's left little room for players to destress. Fast bowler Pat Cummins shed light on the matter while highlighting the importance of getting away from cricket when possible."We spend 10-11 months of the year on the road, so when I'm touring I've got to get away from cricket, or else it captures my whole life," Cummins said. "When I can get little breaks I do, and those four weeks were great for me to step away from cricket, not really watch cricket, just live a normal life, have a normal routine, because I don't think I could do it for 10-15 years just with 12 months of the year all focused on cricket."

"The last 12 months JL's been really good at trying to identify breaks where we can. I've heard him say a few times 'I wish I could give you guys a longer break but we'll have to delay that'. It's a general conversation.

"Lloydy [Australian team psychologist Michael Lloyd] has just about been full-time on tour for the last few years. Lloydy's brilliant, I've known him since 17 or 18 years old and he's always on tour, if he isn't he might be away for a week or two, but there's definitely times where I pick up the phone and speak to him about different things."

Steve Smith chimed in on how the Australian management was working towards addressing the workload of players. "I think that's something that we're getting a lot better at. Communication with the coach, relevant people that are involved who we can have those honest conversations with about how we're tracking. It is a pretty hectic schedule nowadays. It's bloody tough to sustain it for long periods of time, particularly I think for the fast bowlers. It's extremely difficult what they put themselves through. It's great that those conversations are happening and we're trying to keep guys as mentally and physically fresh as they can be.

"We fill out daily how we're feeling, how we slept ... the sleep gets a big red every now and again. We fill out a wellness thing every day. The coach and psych and head of team performance look at our markers daily and it's upon us to be honest in the way we go about that as well."

Apart from playing more cricket than ever before, the constant scrutiny off the field has also increased the pressure manifold. In light of it, left-armer Mitchell Starc believes that staying in his own bubble in order to ward off the negativity has helped him stay level.

"I got off social media. Getting older and going through all that the last 12 to 18 months I have been mindful about being pretty level. In terms of opinions, the only ones who matter are the ones close to me and the team. Going in and out of the team early in my career and going through that as a young cricketer [helped me]. The game has changed since I started. Social media stuff comes into it. We have two broadcasters now so there are more demands on the players. Guys are reading and taking note of more opinions now as well. I can only speak for myself but that is what helped me most over the past 18 months was not caring what people think and not reading it and taking that away from my lifestyle and it's been a lot clearer and a lot more positive," Starc said.

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