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Sports star battles depression

Black Caps cricket star Lou Vincent is suffering depression and is receiving professional help to get through his darkest days.

The 29- year-old confirmed to the Herald on Sunday he had been in a "bad way" - he is on anti-depressants and using the services of a clinical psychologist.

His illness follows his axing from the Black Caps, a string of similar health problems for other major sports stars - and a high-profile depression-awareness campaign fronted by former All Black John Kirwan.

Sources say the depression has taken a heavy toll on Vincent and his young family - he and his wife have a toddler - but they are now coming through the ordeal together. Vincent is back playing cricket at provincial level, after a short break out of the game.

A New Zealand Cricket spokesman confirmed Vincent's illness yesterday and said that his psychologist was happy with his progress.

New Zealand Cricket selector Dion Nash said the selection panel was aware of Vincent's illness, and he had spoken to him several times.

"From what we can see, he's dealt with it, and seeing the right specialists and getting back on track, which is good for everyone.

"I feel for the guy. Lou's a great guy - we really wish him all the best, we value him very highly."

Nash said he had seen similar cases in cricket. "If they weren't [diagnosed], I have known a few guys who should have been, including myself at times."

Cricket, he said, was one of the toughest games mentally - often it was about battling your own head more than the opposition.

Players had to ensure they stayed consistently calm, positive and in a neutral headspace - this was particularly hard on overseas tours when players were away from friends and family.

For batsmen such as Vincent - who have one chance to perform each innings - it was even tougher.

The Herald on Sunday understands Vincent has found some selection policies difficult to fathom and that this may have contributed to his anxiety.

Nash said he understood Vincent had some issues with the rotation policy.

"When he's in form, we pick him and he's fantastic - he will win matches. But what we really want is guys who can consistently perform up there. We understand that's not easy - it's a tough environment. We understand it is upsetting when you are dropped."

Nash said it was important batsmen were averaging 45, rather than 35, whether it was Vincent or any other top-level stars.

As well as having family and friends around him, Vincent is also being supported by the Players Association.

And he is showing promising signs of overcoming his illness - on the field, at least. He scored a match-winning 79 for Auckland against Wellington early last week.

Today he plays for Auckland in a State Shield match against Otago.

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