OPINION

Why wait is the most important word in a cricketer's vocabulary

Apparently people count the days until Christmas. Never understood it but, hey, count away.

Others of us are ahead of the game and have already completed our annual countdown. Now it's just a case of silent, almost unhinged excitement ahead of 11am Thursday.

That's when the first ball of the summer's first Test in Australia is bowled. The tiny fact that it's not even summer is utterly irrelevant, of course.

And as keen as cricket tragics might be for the on-field stuff to start, it is behind the rope where much important discussion has taken place.

Not the toings and froings within BBL franchises but rather the entirely more significant issue of mental ill-health among cricketers.

Three elite male players already have removed themselves from national selection this summer for this very reason. Yet still ill-informed criticism abounds, and, of course, it's most prevalent on social media.

Eight years ago Ed Cowan, a former Australian player, asked if cricket was the "black dog of the sporting kennel". The question remains relevant.

He wrote: "There is no escaping the black and white of failure - among other things, it is statistically tangible."

Cricket is a particularly isolating sport. Ostensibly, a team game but in fact, the sum of individual exploits.

The team is an all-powerful entity but remember, team dynamics are fluid and changeable. One seemingly minor backroom change may well affect every team member differently. For instance, John Buchanan's coaching style is poles apart from Darren Lehmann's which, in turn, is different from current coach Justin Langer's. Just ask Shane Warne.

Drill down even further and the three major slices of life are intrinsically linked for professional cricketers: the professional, the social and the financial realms. Impact one, impact them all. Another former international cricketer Ed Smith spoke to this theme when he wrote about creating room for late developers.

Now an English selector, Smith has extolled the "value of having transferable skills rather than a single focus from a young age".

Think about those child prodigies who shone brightly but flamed out.

Victorian batsman Will Pucovski is 21 and has been pencilled in as the future of the Australian top order.

With potential Test selection on the horizon, he's held up his hand and said "wait". Authorities have, we should, too.

Janine Graham is an ACM journalist