Waugh: Courageous Maxwell debunks old-school myth

STEVE Waugh has applauded Glenn Maxwell for taking a break because the cricket great can now recognise that 1980s teammates had mental health issues that went untreated.

The decorated former Test skipper said candidly that cricket's old-school culture would once have made it impossible for a player to take mental health leave even when desperate.

"He (Maxwell) has done the right and courageous thing. I applaud him 100 per cent," Waugh said in Brisbane.

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"In the past, we've seen it as a sign of weakness if you're on tour, you're struggling and the pressure has got to you or you're homesick.

"'Guts it out' was always the call.

"I look back at the 1980s and think of players who definitely had issues but it just wasn't talked about because there was a stigma attached.

"Realistically, cricket has always had players who had mental illness and just weren't recognised or didn't have an outlet to have it dealt with."

Cricket Australia announced on Thursday that star all-rounder Maxwell had been granted indefinite leave on mental health grounds.

Glenn Maxwell has taken a step away from cricket, for the moment. Picture: AAP
Glenn Maxwell has taken a step away from cricket, for the moment. Picture: AAP

His thrilling 62 from 28 balls and fielding master class in Australia's T20 thumping of Sri Lanka in Adelaide last weekend was an exuberant mask over his troubles.

"It just shows you that you can sometimes hide things on the field where you feel most comfortable … you're free," said Waugh, a 168-Test regular for two decades from 1985.

"It's away from cricket where the situation gets harder. It's a good thing he's done what he's done.

"There is the support around the side today and it just goes to prove that cricketers are normal like everyone else without some superhuman ability to overcome everything.

Maxwell played a sparkling knock for Australia in Adelaide last week. Picture: Getty
Maxwell played a sparkling knock for Australia in Adelaide last week. Picture: Getty

"Players are under enormous pressure these days and if you've got anything going on away from cricket with the mental side of things then you do need a break."

Waugh recalled long tours of India and Pakistan in the 1980s where some hotels had only one operator-controlled telephone.

"You might queue for a call, have the line drop out and not get to speak to home for three days," Waugh said.

"I know I went through a period where I struggled with stuff but somehow I got through it while there were some dark troubling times for others."

Waugh is in Queensland ahead of next week's "Captain's Ride", a six-day 800km on-road cycle event that starts in Toowoomba on Monday and finishes at Tamborine Mountain Saturday week.

It's the fifth year of the Steve Waugh Foundation charity bike challenge, with all proceeds going to Australian children with rare diseases.

Former Australia cricketer Steve Waugh has praised Maxwell’s approach. Picture: Getty
Former Australia cricketer Steve Waugh has praised Maxwell’s approach. Picture: Getty

Those riding next week include Waugh's former Test teammate Matthew Hayden, Paralympic legends Kurt Fearnley and Michael Milton, Liverpool football great Craig Johnston, two-time Olympic decathlon gold medallist Daley Thompson and Australia's cycling queen Anna Meares, who despite being six months pregnant, will ride on an "E bike".

Englishman Thompson is taking part in the challenge for a fourth year.

"Steve and I have become really good friends," Thompson said.

"I love that him and his whole family are involved in trying to make other people's lives better."