Aryaman Birla, the Madhya Pradesh batsman, has taken an “indefinite sabbatical from cricket”, citing “severe anxiety related to the sport for a while now”. Birla, 22, has been through a number of injury setbacks and hasn’t played competitive cricket since January this year. Rajasthan Royals, the IPL team he was part of for two seasons, released him in November.
“I’ve felt trapped. I’ve pushed myself through all the distress so far, but now I feel the need to put my mental health and wellbeing above all else,” he wrote on Instagram. “We all have our own journeys and I want to take this time to understand myself better, open my mind to new and varied perspectives and seek purpose in my findings.”
Birla, the son of the billionaire industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, left his hometown Mumbai as a 17-year old who was unsure of his immediate future as a cricketer trying to “fight for survival” in the city.
Not wanting to lose time, he decided to take the plunge by enrolling for district trials in Madhya Pradesh in 2014. Prior to that, he had a three-month stint in England under former Middlesex cricketer Paul Weekes, playing for West Hampstead Cricket Club and the London Schools Cricket Association.
Birla spent four years in the junior circuit in Madhya Pradesh before being handed a Ranji Trophy debut in October 2017. He has so far featured in nine first-class games, eight of which came during the 2018-19 Ranji Trophy. The highlight was his backs-to-the-wall maiden first-class century against Bengal at Eden Gardens in his third first-class game, which helped Madhya Pradesh salvage a hard-fought draw.
“When I first came to MP, I was known more by my last name,” he told ESPNcricinfo last year. “I kept hearing ‘I was Birla’s son, Birla’s grandson.’ But through my performances, I changed perceptions, they started seeing me differently. That’s been my biggest achievement so far. Recently someone came and told me ‘you’re so seedha saadha (simple and straightforward), we didn’t even know you’re from the Birla family.’ That to me was a sign of change.”
He further wrote on Instagram: “This phase has been difficult, but it has also helped me realise who my real friends and well-wishers are. I truly believe I’ll emerge from this phase even stronger than before.”