Kapil Dev’s comments on ‘depression’ and ‘passion’ spark debate on mental health

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If there’s one off-field topic that has been talked about extensively by both athletes and those following sport regularly, it’s the ‘mental health’ of sportspersons amid choc-a-bloc event calendcrazypyarars, mounting expectations and time away from families.
The conversation around mental health is slowly taking on a mature hue in India, as more and more people accept the fact that it is very important to talk about things that are pulling you down mentally and to seek help to rectify that. Around the world, more and more athletes are openly talking about their mental health, taking mental health breaks and actively talking about how the rigours of modern-day sport, which has so many more facets now than just on-field play, adds immense mental pressure. Mental health is a very very important subject, not just for athletes, but for every single one of us.
It wasn’t a big surprise then to see many, many fans react angrily to comments made by India’s 1983 cricket World Cup-winning captain Kapil Dev at an event recently.
In a video that has gone viral, Kapil can be seen talking about “pressure” and “depression” in what many feel is a derogatory way, calling them “American words”.
“I hear a lot of times on TV these days, there’s a lot of pressure, (we) play the IPL, so there’s so much pressure. Then I only say one thing – don’t play. What is pressure? If a player has passion, there will be no pressure. I can’t understand these American words like pressure, depression. I don’t understand these. I’m a farmer and we played to enjoy, and there can’t be any pressure in enjoyment,” Kapil said at the ‘Chat with Champions’ event.

Former cricketer Kapil Dev’s remarks on pressure faced by school students and new-generation cricketers have sparked controversy. While speaking at an event ‘Champions of Aakash 2022’ organised by Byju’s, an educational technology company, Dev said the pressure of any sort ceases to exist when one enjoys their work.

Dev said, “I hear a lot of times on TV that there’s a lot of pressure on IPL players. Then I have only one thing to say: don’t play. If a player has passion, then there will be no pressure. I can’t understand these American words, like ‘pressure’ and ‘depression’. I come from a farming background, we played because we enjoyed the game.”

The former skipper also said he wonders what pressure Class 10 or 12 students face when they go to school with air conditioning, have expensive fees paid by their parents, and do not get beaten by their teachers. He urged students to change ‘pressure into pleasure’. The audience at the event clapped enthusiastically at Dev’s remarks.

However, Dev’s comments have divided netizens. Those in his favour argued the World Cup-winning cricketer was giving practical advice, others contended he dismissed the valid mental health struggles of others.

Criticising Dev’s comments, Soumitra Pathare, a psychiatrist, tweeted, “I have the utmost respect for Kapil Dev. He defined my generation. But people should stick to things they know about. I don’t comment on cricket. Likewise he should stick to cricket. The most charitable thing I can say is Paaji is getting old.”


Another person wrote in the cricketer’s defence, “Many of you are upset that Kapil Dev made fun of “pressure” and “depression”. He didn’t. He mocked those who hide behind such words to cover their inaction or failure. He exhorts us to enjoy what we’re doing. Those age-shaming him are pitiable. Achieve a fraction of what he has”.

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