The ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 win is the highest point of England fast bowler Liam Plunkett's career, but he needed to overcome periods of anxiety and doubt to get there.
Plunkett's 3/42 in the final against New Zealand at Lord's got somewhat overshadowed after the brilliance from Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Jofra Archer later in the day. Having produced a similar match-defining spell in a must-win round-robin fixture against India earlier, Plunkett can easily be seen as England's unsung World Cup hero. The journey however, has not been smooth for the 34-year-old.
In fact, although he has been consistent for the Eoin Morgan-led side, especially in the middle overs, he wasn't an automatic starter in the XI early in this World Cup, playing just three of the first seven games.
Having made his England debut back in 2005, Plunkett faced long spells on the sidelines, before fighting his way back into the side in 2015 after a break of four years. One of his most challenging periods was in 2016-17, when he was left out of the England squad for the series against South Africa. Speaking on the sidelines of an event on Monday, he opened up about his mental health challenges and how he almost gave up.
"At one point, in a T20 series, I thought I'd never play white-ball again," Plunkett said. "I said, 'Listen, I'm not sure I'll play, I may as well just retire', and Morgs (Eoin Morgan) was like, 'Mate, I'd hold on a bit. Just chill out.'
"I actually played a week later, it was a T20 series when we beat Pakistan in Dubai, and it came out really nicely, I bowled 90 clicks and got three-for and all of a sudden I'm back in.
"I didn't get picked for the South Africa series and they said, you need to go and work on some skills. So I went away and worked on my cross-seam deliveries, wobble seam, my cutters and stuff. Even if I felt, I can't bowl as quick as I used to, I still have the deliveries to take wickets and change games. And with the experience you work batsmen out."
At the event to encourage children to play cricket, Plunkett admitted that he had experienced anxiety early in his career. “I’ve always been big into it [mental health awareness],” he said. “I had a panic attack a long time ago ... I struggled being in one-on-one situations and certain situations like travelling on a plane. I’ve always been conscious of that.”
Everything was building up to that World Cup and it was the highest point of my career. I’m not sure anything’s going to happen like that again in cricket for me.
The World Cup too had been a roller coaster of emotion, he added.
"The whole World Cup, I was sleeping four hours a night, I couldn't sleep at all, I was on edge," he said. "I never felt tired during the games, I was just excited. Wanted to do well, probably the last World Cup you play in 50-over competition, what you've built up for the last four years as a group."
But then, it was all over and it was a sudden lull. “I went from winning the World Cup and all of a sudden I’m sat on my sofa watching Netflix a day and a half later. It was quite hard and honestly I felt quite down a little bit,” he said.
“Everything was building up to that World Cup and it was the highest point of my career. I’m not sure anything’s going to happen like that again in cricket for me.
“In the blink of an eye it was gone, as I say it felt like a massive low then. Everyone just disappeared everywhere else, so it was sad a little bit because you still want to be around people."
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