5.30pm, I swipe my work card, I run towards my car (sorry excuse/replacement of lack of exercise), looking backward isn’t even an option, end of time it is, at the least till the next morning. In short I hate my work place, the feeling it breeds and the way it is run.

Assumptions are dangerous but it’s probably safe to say that if given an option, most people will leave their professions/job and rather do something they enjoy doing. Alas, the world doesn’t work that way. So every day I repeat this method and think to myself may be the next day will bring a better alternative, knowing full well how irrational the thought is. However, the run is symbolic of my love towards my life which doesn’t involve my work place. I am blessed with incredible friends, and a rational family. We express our own hate for our respective bosses, have a laugh, eat good food and prepare for the next day. Those few hours are an outlet and give us all a necessary release to refocus and survive another day.

My family and my friends know that I am doing all this for money as is the case with them. Being a “good” son, I was taught and nurtured to function in a “respectable” fashion. When in my childhood, I showed interests in something else, they successfully curbed my instinct, when I tried to push against it, and they “disciplined” me and redirected me to this pathway. So, when I moan they understand this isn’t what I actually want to do. Hence, we balance our lives with timely outbursts, as we are all in it together.

Let us analyze a life of a professional cricketer in Pakistan. Unfortunately, I will have to focus on the male cricketers because this space is not enough to look in to the unimaginable challenges a female has to go through to be able to just play cricket. Most of us do not have the confidence in our loved ones that they can make it to the national team. This also stems from the fact that unless he makes it to the national team their life is not going to be worth living. Those who push the removal of departmental teams’ further disaster; but that is a debate for another day.

So when someone tries, most families’ apply tried and tested methods to derail him. Light (or hard) beating for starters, then emotional blackmail as to who will look after your ailing mother, social punishment when one “hard working” sibling is given preferential treatment as he or she has submitted to their wills. When someone goes through all this and finally makes it to the national side, he is surely very thick skinned. He thinks of himself as being very strong. The paradox is, the war is at its starting point when in your head you have already won it.

To survive international cricket playing for Pakistan with constant social media abuse, pressure from the media in general, leg pulling from the team mates and a broken system, one needs to have the resilience of Hodor (sorry non GOT people). As they say it is not for the weak hearted. So, imagine playing for Pakistan and having a bad day in the field. You come back to the dressing room, get the hairdryer treatment from the coach, you are new to the team so not many friends are there to give moral support, some of the team mates are competing for a place with you so at some level are happy that your demise will see their rise, you are isolated, alone and sitting in a corner with a damaged ego.

As now widely being discussed in light of Monty Panesar’s admission about mental illness, this is probably where it all starts. In a welfare state, which is much more understanding of such issues (see Johnaton Trott and Marcus Trescothick), and have a lot of support systems from a young age, it took number of incidents from Mr Panesar to finally admit that there is something not right. Panesar peed on a bouncer at a night club, which was not enough to make him realise this; he was still adamant that he wasn’t wrong. So what chance does a player have in Pakistan? A society where one and all mental illness is labelled as insanity, who would accept that they need help?

Trying to look at one’s own self with objectivity is a complex matter, few can do it. When an individual like me finishes work, it is easy to vent frustration (in whatever way) with or towards family and friends who are happy to share the load. What happens when a wicket keeper misses two chances in UAE after keeping for over 140 overs, comes back to the dressing room, the coaches demolish him further, and when he returns from the stadium, he has to stare at a hotel room wall. Remember Pakistan plays all its home games in UAE, so players can’t afford having people from our families, wives and children with you all time. Will he ever have the courage to call up his family and tell them that the game I love and I fought with you for is now giving me mental issues? In the battle on how I should be perceived and how am I feeling, it is mostly likely won by the perception side. What will the society think of me? I challenged my Abba to play the sports; I can’t let him down this way. So he carries on, until he starts thinking as Monty Panesar put it “they are there to get me, everybody including my teammates”. The inbred insecurities of performance at such a level combine with paranoia. The battle may consume you from within if you are not head-strong.

Cricketers are the number 1 public target these days. Yes, they earn good money but they are humans. As the country’s conditions worsen, there are more things to be angry for and cricket provides an outlet. Wins bring an outpour of joy, while losses bring out the hate. Cosmetic changes are brought about; those who have power retain it and continue on their merry way. If Pakistan is to compete on an international level, preparation will have to be of an international standard. Playing hunger games every few years in Abbotabad will not suffice.