Who is the best cricketer in the world? Read captains' picks and vote for yours

Virat Kohli, Mitchell Starc and MS Dhoni
ICC Champions Trophy 2017
Venues: The Oval, Edgbaston, Cardiff. Dates: 1-18 June
Coverage: Highlights every evening on BBC Two, ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; in-play highlights and text commentary on the BBC Sport website

India’s Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni, and Australia bowler Mitchell Starc, are the best players in the world – according to a BBC Sport survey of world cricket’s captains.

With eight of the world’s top nations in England and Wales for the Champions Trophy, we asked the one-day captain of each competing nation to vote for their top three batsmen, bowlers and wicketkeepers in world cricket, taking into account all formats.

Completing our survey on behalf of their team-mates, captains were not allowed to vote for players from their own country and their top selection would be worth three points, their second selection two points and their third selection in a category one point.

Australia, Bangladesh, England, New Zealand, Pakistan and South Africa all took part but, despite repeated attempts to get their responses, India and Sri Lanka did not meet the deadline.

The verdict, however, was conclusive…

Arise, King Kohli

India right-hander Virat Kohli averaged 76 in Test cricket in 2016

For years, cricket fans bickered over the relative merits of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, but now there are a number of run machines who can realistically lay claim to being the best in the world – the likes of England’s Joe Root, New Zealand’s Kane Williamson and Australia’s Steve Smith.

One man stood out among his peers, however: Virat Kohli.

With 43 international centuries to his name at the age of 28, and four Test scores of 200 or more in the past 12 months, it is perhaps no surprise that three of his fellow captains nominated him as the best in the world with the other three respondents marking him as second best.

Two of those other number one votes went to South Africa’s dynamic run machine AB de Villiers, with New Zealand’s Kane Williamson earning the other.

England and Australia captains Joe Root and Steve Smith earned two nominations each for third place.

Analysis by BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “Kohli is the most unflappable chaser of runs there’s ever been. I don’t know how he does it. He never shows any anxiety or pressure when chasing totals, when the pressure is actually really on. It’s extraordinary.

“He has a calculating mind that allows him to switch off from everything that’s going on around him and just bat. I don’t think there has been anyone else like him for his ability to chase runs.”

Starc head and shoulders above the rest

Mitchell Starc won the Allan Border medal for Test player of the year in Australia earlier this year

The most convincing winner in our survey was Australia’s left-arm quick Mitchell Starc. Four world captains had him as their first pick, with the other (Australia couldn’t vote for him, remember) having him second to South Africa’s Dale Steyn.

Chris Woakes received the solitary third-place vote for an England bowler, while Starc’s fellow left-armer from New Zealand, Trent Boult, was a popular pick for second and third place (receiving four nominations).

With six-wicket hauls on three continents in Test cricket, 27-year-old Starc is now the spearhead of an impressive Australian pace attack also including Josh Hazlewood (one vote for third place), Pat Cummins and James Pattinson.

Analysis by BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “If there’s swing around, Starc moves the white ball. He’s got great pace and a searing yorker. He’s got all the attributes for a one-day fast bowler. He knocks people over and is particularly brutal with the tail. He’s definitely the standout fast bowler in the world.”

Dhoni keeps number one spot

He may be 35 now, but India’s iconic wicketkeeper MS Dhoni continues to strike fear into the opposition with his innovative, powerful batting and wicketkeeping skills.

Dhoni has handed over the captaincy to Virat Kohli now and he no longer plays Test cricket, but his one-day skills remain razor-sharp – emphasised by his sparkling 134 against England in January.

He does have a rival for his crown, though, with South Africa’s Quinton de Kock earning just as many nominations – although, crucially, not as many first-choice picks.

England’s Jos Buttler was a popular choice, while his team-mate Jonny Bairstow also received a vote.

This category was a two-horse race though – and World Cup, World T20 and Champions Trophy winner Dhoni, in fitting style, was triumphant.

Analysis by BBC cricket correspondent Jonathan Agnew: “I don’t think he’s necessarily the best wicketkeeper, but it’s the all-round package that he brings. The innings he played in the 2011 World Cup final was astonishing. He hits the ball in unusual places with a lot of bottom hand. I also like the way he plays the game. He’s a positive cricketer. He would never claim to be a great keeper, but he’s more than fulfilled the job he’s been asked to do.”

Are the captains right?

Who gets your vote? Pick your top three batsman, bowlers and wicketkeepers in world cricket – only players nominated in this survey are available – and share it with your friends and on social media, using #bbccricket.

AB de VilliersSouth Africa

Hashim AmlaSouth Africa

Joe RootEngland

Kane WilliamsonNew Zealand

Steve SmithAustralia

Virat Kohli India

Bhuvneshwar KumarIndia

Chris WoakesEngland

Dale SteynSouth Africa

Josh HazlewoodAustralia

Kagiso RabadaSouth Africa

Mitchell StarcAustralia

Mohammad AmirPakistan

Ravichandran AshwinIndia

Trent BoultNew Zealand

Jonny BairstowEngland

Jos ButtlerEngland

MS DhoniIndia

Quinton de KockSouth Africa

Sarfraz AhmedPakistan

Wriddhiman SahaIndia

Why MS Dhoni's place in cricket history is assured

This file photo taken on June 22, 2016 shows India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni leading his team after victory during the third and final T20 cricket match in a series of three games between India and Zimbabwe in the Prayag Cup at Harare Sports Club.Image copyright

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Dhoni was leader of a talented group of players which emerged from small cities and towns

Mahendra Singh Dhoni has stepped down as India’s limited-overs captain ahead of the upcoming one-day international series against England. Wisden India editor Suresh Menon looks at what made the wicketkeeper-batsman one of the calmest cricketers in history.

Dhoni was not only a calm captain himself, he was the cause for calmness in others.

He smiled, he showed displeasure, he chatted to bowlers, but while his immediate message was clear, no one could bet on what his thinking was.

To catch the cricket fraternity by surprise twice in two years – first while quitting Test cricket, and now when relinquishing captaincy in one-day internationals – is no mean feat.

Dhoni read the one-day game better than he did Test cricket, and was India’s finest captain in the shorter formats.

He led India to victory in three tournaments – World Twenty20 (2007), World Cup (2011) and Champions Trophy (2013) – so the record matched his reputation.

He tended to let the longer game drift occasionally, and seemed to feel the pressure of not losing his early Tests, something that might have rendered him more defensive once the streak was broken.

The shorter formats were different.

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Dhoni’s fitness has never been in doubt

He could experiment, even gamble, trusting his finely honed sense of time and place to bring him success.

When he handed the ball to rookie Joginder Sharma in the final of the inaugural World T20 a decade ago, there might have been a collective gasp around the country.

Yet Sharma claimed the last Pakistan wicket, and as an unintended consequence, the face of cricket was changed forever. The IPL was born, as India, Twenty20 deniers became Twenty20 obsessed.

Dhoni, one of the greatest finishers in the modern game, got his timing right once again, pre-empting the inevitable media speculation about his future following the sustained successes of Test skipper Virat Kohli.

Fitness not a problem

The only question to be answered, of course, was whether Dhoni saw himself in the 2019 World Cup team.

He would be 39 then, but fitness was unlikely to be the problem. The concern was over the fact that given that India’s fixture list is heavy on Test cricket, he might feel rusty with bat in hand.

Already in recent matches, his legendary finishing abilities had let him down occasionally, and there were few chances to get match fit.

This meant that he could not afford failure, and had to make an impact every time he went out to bat. Youngsters like wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant were beginning to look match-ready. It was thus a pragmatic call, to give up the captaincy, focus on batting and try to rediscover the freedom and form that made him one of the greats.

For Dhoni is nothing if not practical.

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Dhoni was India’s finest captain in the shorter formats

Not for him the romance and layered philosophy of the game; he was simple without being simplistic, straightforward without being naive, and knows his mind best.

These qualities served him well as captain, they serve him well as a person.

The long chat he had with the chairman of selectors, MSK Prasad, during the semi-final of the ongoing domestic Ranji Trophy tournament might have convinced him. Perhaps the decision to step down as the one-day captain was made before the chat.

Dhoni’s place in history is assured, and not just as a player and captain.

He was leader of a talented group of players which emerged from non-traditional areas.

There was a historical inevitability about this. India’s early captains were the local royals. Then came those who worked for the royals like Lala Amarnath and Vijay Hazare.

Then came the middle-class salary-earning city-bred captains (Gulabrai Ramchand,Nari Contractor, Ajit Wadekar), with Tiger Pataudi the exception in the 1960s.

Dhoni’s arrival was a testimony to the reach of televised cricket.

Youngsters had been fired by the 1983 World Cup win by Kapil Dev’s India. Suddenly towns like Bharuch, Aligarh, Jalandhar, Palarivattom, Quilon, Rae Bareilly, Khorda and Kodagu began producing international cricketers.

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Dhoni led India to its second World Cup win in 2011

Dhoni was eight when Sachin Tendulkar made his debut, yet within months of playing under Dhoni, the senior man was saying, “I am delighted at the way Dhoni conducts himself. He is a balanced guy with a sharp brain. His approach is clear and uncomplicated.”

So clear and uncomplicated that when his immediate predecessor Anil Kumble retired, Dhoni carried him off the field on his shoulders.

In Indian cricket, no captain is a hero to his vice-captain, and this must rate as one of the great sights on a cricket field.

‘A fluke’

The simple was best demonstrated when he asked spinner Amit Mishra to bowl the last over on the second day of the Mohali Test against Australia in 2008, and the bowler dismissed Michael Clarke.

At the press conference later, Dhoni, praised for his acumen, confessed, “It was a fluke.” He was to say later, “I want a team that can stand before an advancing truck.”

It was a captaincy mantra that he followed, and which saw India rise to the top in both Test and ODI rankings.

Whether Dhoni was bowing to the inevitable by giving up the captaincy, or merely anticipating the future by a fortnight, the fact remains that once again he goes out on his own terms.

He led in 199 matches, winning 110, a figure second only to Allan Border’s 165. His 41 wins in Twenty20 are the best by any captain.

The transition, as in Test cricket, will be smooth.

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Dhoni is one of the world’s richest sportspeople

Virat Kohli is ready, willing and able. He has said he learnt much under Dhoni, and as he prepares to put together the team for 2019, the younger man has enough time to figure out whether the older fits into his scheme of things.

But currently, Dhoni the batsman is a certainty.

Suresh Menon is the Editor of Wisden India Cricketers’ Almanack

Could Big Bash cricket usurp Tests in Australia?

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Australians have enjoyed the spectacle of the Big Bash League

A giant seagull, acrobatic motorcyclists and a daredevil in a jetpack are the poster boys of one of the greatest success stories Australian sport has ever seen. Add fireworks, chest-thumping music and monster sixes and it’s easy to see why cricket’s Twenty20 Big Bash League (BBL) is one of the world’s most well-attended competitions.

Set up in 2011 by Cricket Australia, the national governing body, the league has eight city-based franchises. The Perth Scorchers have been the most successful, again making the final this year, which they will play against the Sydney Sixers on Saturday.

Now into its sixth season, the fans love it, and next year’s competition will expand from 32 to 40 matches.

“Importantly for us we had more people attending games of cricket (in Australia) last year than ever before in over the last 100 years. I think it was around 1.7 million people,” said BBL manager Anthony Everard.

“Fans have obviously indicated there is great demand for this competition in the summertime and there is no reason why we can’t grow at some stage in the future.”

Live interviews

Last season, the average BBL crowd exceeded 29,000 supporters, while TV audiences have quadrupled in four years. On average more than 1.1 million viewers watched each game on free-to-air television in 2015-16, while this year some matches have eclipsed ratings for the Australian Open tennis. The Women’s Big Bash League is also attracting more interest from fans back home on the sofa.

Former Australian international, Dirk Nannes, who also starred for the Netherlands in their famous ICC World Twenty20 win over England at Lord’s in 2009, believes tight contests, expert commentary and the spreading of talented players among the teams have made the BBL an unstoppable force.

  • Is this the future of cricket?

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The Women’s Big Bash League is increasing in popularity

The big names are often interviewed live during play, giving fans a unique insight during matches that last about three hours.

“You hear what the captains are doing. It is a side of the game you don’t normally see. More people enjoying the game can’t be a bad thing,” he told the BBC.

Each team is allowed two overseas players, and the foreign legion has been dominated by stars from England and the West Indies, among them Stuart Broad, Kevin Pietersen and Chris Gayle. International schedules have restricted the availability of high-profile South Africans and Sri Lankans, while the glitterati of Indian cricket has also been absent.

Tests ‘more pure’

If the BBL can boast an over-sized seagull mascot (a homage to a bird that made a miraculous recovery after being struck by a ball during a BBL clash in Melbourne), Test cricket has Alan the Alligator (aka fan James Conn) from the port city of Newcastle, north of Sydney.

“It’s a good party,” he said on a rain-drenched third day of the Test between Australia and Pakistan at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG). “It’s a good five-day atmosphere. You can’t beat it.”

Australia’s six Tests against South Africa and Pakistan in 2016-17 were attended by a total of 521,725 people. No summer that did not involve England or India has attracted a higher number, according to Cricket Australia.

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Mitchell Starc claims a wicket at the SCG Test earlier this month

“I’m enjoying the Big Bash on the TV but there is nothing like a Test match. Get the Aussie pride out there,” Anne Tucker, from Sydney’s northern beaches, said at the SCG Test.

“It is just part of being Australian to go to the (Test) cricket. You’ve got to go once in your lifetime,” added her friend, Suzanne Clements. “The Test matches are more strategic and more pure.”

Massive crowds

In party shirts and bright sombreros, Nicole Schneider and Harriet Messner, friends from the New South Wales town of Bathurst, were already converts to BBL, and were keen to see if the longest form of the game could match the verve of the shortest.

“This is my first Test match and I’m not sure how it will be, but I love the Big Bash. I’m going next week. It is fast-paced and it is more exciting. There is much more happening,” Ms Schneider explained.

Ms Messner enthused: “I have experienced a couple of Big Bashes, which are good. They get the crowd involved with all the music and the fireworks. It’s a good family game.”

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Phil Mercer

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Harriet Messner and Nicole Schneider prefer BBL to Tests

In Adelaide, the Strikers regularly attract BBL crowds of almost 50,000 fans, while in Perth, the Scorchers will soon move to a new 60,000-seat stadium.

“Our vision is firmly on filling it every game we play there and we get great confidence seeing what has happened at the Adelaide Oval,” said Christina Matthews, the head of the Western Australian Cricket Association and a former Australian cricketer.

So could T20 usurp Test matches and become the pinnacle of Australia’s national sport? Maybe.

“We all believe Test cricket is the ultimate test of a cricketer and I can’t see that changing in the immediate future, but in the early 1900s people couldn’t see cars taking over from horses either, so we’ll wait and see,” Ms Matthews said.

Australia's enduring infatuation with Shane Warne

Classic Warnie: Shane sports his signature lip zinc and celebrates with a beer after a match in the 1990sImage copyright
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Classic Warnie: Shane sports his signature lip zinc and celebrates with a beer after a match in 1994

Australian cricket great Shane Warne has been beamed into living rooms across the UK as part of Sky Sports’ cricket coverage all summer. Trevor Marshallsea takes a look at the enduring popularity of an unlikely megastar.

This year Shane Warne took part in Australia’s version of reality show I’m A Celebrity ? Get Me Out Of Here! The former cricketer was one of 10 identities put into the South African jungle for the show, but for most of it, you could have been excused for thinking he was the only one who mattered.

If the show made a newspaper headline, invariably it involved Warne. His actions and utterances, however banal or bizarre, became news in Australia. He said he believed that aliens “made” the first humans out of monkeys and built the pyramids, confessed a fear of spiders and was bitten on the face by a non-venomous snake. Seemingly anything Warne-related had news value.

This is despite the fact Warne stopped terrorising Test cricket’s finest batsmen in 2007. He has swapped playing for commentating and the allure of the former leg-spinner shows no signs of abating in Australia.

His 708 Test wickets plus 293 in one-day internationals are 1001 reasons why this rough-hewn son of suburban Melbourne should hold a special place in the history of his sport-mad country.

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The late Richie Benaud said Warne was “without doubt the finest legspinner the world has ever seen”

Despite repeated controversies, it seems nothing can dim the headline power of the man teammates used to call Hollywood.

Charity case

It remains to be seen whether a simmering drama over his children’s charity, The Shane Warne Foundation, will tarnish Warne’s appeal with the Australian public. The charity recently closed, blaming “unwarranted speculation” about how much of its proceeds reached the needy.

Regardless of the outcome, most would predict Warne to keep barrelling on in the Teflon-coated way to which Australians have become accustomed. Not everyone loves him, but you certainly can’t escape him.

“He’s Australia’s biggest celebrity by far. No-one comes close and no-one ever will,” says Dr Steve Georgiakis, senior lecturer on sports studies at the University of Sydney.

“(Australian producer-director) George Miller won six Oscars for Mad Max: Fury Road, but at that time most people here were still talking about Warnie and what he was doing on I’m A Celebrity.”

One simple test highlights the Warne fascination. Google Steve Waugh – a revered cricketing hero and Australian of the Year in 2004 – and you’ll find 503,000 results. Another Australian captain, Ricky Ponting, will yield 521,000 results. Type Shane Warne and you’ll find 7,230,000.

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Shane with former wife Simone Callahan

“Kids now don’t really know much about Steve Waugh. But they all still know Shane Warne,” Dr Georgakis says.

Warne’s penchant for off-field controversy is well known. During his unrivalled playing career, he was involved in several sex scandals which led to the end of his marriage to Simone Callahan, and to his sacking as Australia vice-captain.

Among other dramas, the father of three was banned from cricket for a year in 2003 for taking a diuretic, which he maintained was not about enhancing his performance but his looks. He was punished for involvement with an Indian bookmaker and pilloried for snatching a camera from a teenage boy who’d taken his photograph while he was smoking. Warne had signed an endorsement deal with a nicotine-substitute manufacturer.

Another major media moment for the 46-year-old, who retired from all forms of cricket in 2013, was his surprise engagement to British model-actress Liz Hurley. The relationship ended three years ago and Warne has since said he’d like his “good friend” to return her engagement ring.

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Photographed at the races with Sex and The City star Sarah Jessica-Parker (L) and former flame Elizabeth Hurley (R)

His net worth is commonly estimated at between A$30m (?17m) and A$50m. And like many Hollywood celebrities, he’s turned to doctors to to keep up his looks. He admits to using Botox, but denies persistent rumours he’s had plastic surgery.

‘Do gooders get stuffed’

But more than anything, it’s what comes out of Warne’s mouth that generates controversy.

After Australia won last year’s World Cup, Warne was slammed for conducting several post-match interviews where he repeatedly asked the “boys” how “thirsty” they were for a celebratory alcohol binge. His response was to Tweet:

“Do gooders get stuffed. Straya (Australia) is the best place in the world, not politically correct, keep it real. Aussies celebrate properly ! #thirsty”

He repeated the “get stuffed” line to critics of his charity upon exiting I’m A Celebrity, in which he also labelled Waugh “the most selfish cricketer I’ve played with”.

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Warne made headlines when a snake bit him on the face his stint on I’m Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!

“The more PC the world gets, the more he stands out,” says Robert Craddock, Australia’s most senior cricket journalist. “While everyone else is minding their Ps and Qs, he’s as straight as they come and says what he thinks.

“That makes him a very popular commentator, and it also generates part of the fascination with him.”

Warne, who’s often likened his life to a soap opera, and who was in fact the subject of a stage show called Shane Warne: The Musical, said in a recent interview that he had “always been me”.

“I don’t think there’s been many sportsmen on the planet, really, that have been through some of the stuff that I’ve been through, both from a personal thing, the ups, the highs and the lows,” he told Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.

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Warne’s popularity in Australia is such that a local comedian created a biographical musical of his life

“Whether you like me or don’t like me, people always have an opinion about me, that’s just the way it is.”

Controversies aside, Warne was probably the most talented bowler international cricket has known in its 139 years – and possibly the most valuable single contributor to any side in history.

“He’s also still big because it’s really coming clear now as the years pass that he was an absolute one-off,” Craddock says.

“Australia’s had 12 spinners since Warne, but none of them has come near him for ability, charisma, or his appetite for derring do, and his penchant for controversy.”

Panesar on the South Asian mental health 'taboo'

England spinner Monty Panesar

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Cricketer Monty Panesar spoke publicly about his difficulty with paranoia

England cricketer Monty Panesar has fought a public battle with mental health issues. He believes a culture of shame and labelling among the South Asian community is a barrier to others like him accessing help. But why do some in the community struggle with this issue?

Panesar, who has suffered from paranoia and anxiety, is one of the few British Asian celebrities to speak openly about mental health problems.

He was released by Essex County Cricket Club in 2015 and soon after admitted he was struggling to cope.

“The cricketing world was very supportive and understanding,” said the 34-year-old, who is now a mental health ambassador for the Professional Cricketers’ Association.

“But in our Asian community there was no understanding of what mental heath is.

“When you play cricket you want to be perceived as strong, resilient, able to be competitive.

“A lot of young Asians came forward [after I went public] and said, ‘we’re glad you opened up because it’s a huge taboo in our community’.”

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Apache Indian runs a music academy where he says students with mental health problems can discuss issues openly

Another Asian celebrity to have suffered with mental illness is Steve Kapur – better known as the musician Apache Indian, whose 1993 single Boom Shack-A-Lak reached number 5 in the UK.

He shares the perception that his community has a particular problem with acknowledging mental health issues.

“Whether it’s cultural, embarrassment, or whatever it is – we brush a lot of things under the carpet,” he said.

“I’ve been depressed, I’ve been up and down over my time – I’m 50 years old now – but I’m still standing.”

He now runs a music academy at South Birmingham College where students with issues can express themselves through discussion and music.

“Through my experiences I know I can help,” he says.

But why do some sections of the South Asian population have a particular problem accepting mental illness?

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Prof Dinesh Bhugra

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Prof Dinesh Bhugra says mental health is not considered a medical issue by South Asians

Prof Dinesh Bhugra, an expert in mental health at King’s College London, says the South Asian population has “a bigger notion of shame” than others in the UK.

Many also fear admitting mental illness will prevent them from getting married – a particular concern among a society in which arranged marriages play an important role.

He says he has found many in the community do not consider it a medical issue, but instead put mental illness down to other factors “such as a superstitious belief that there is something they did in their previous life and they’re being punished”.

Part of the problem, he believes, is language.

“There is no word for depression in South Asian languages,” he says. “The identified causes are usually [put down to] ‘life’s ups and downs’.

“So, people say ‘what has it got to do with a doctor?'”

The language barrier can also be an obstacle to diagnosis.

“I remember seeing someone who the clinical team had seen several times,” he added.

“The husband said his wife was mad but the clinical team said she was fine. I spoke to her in Punjabi and within seconds her thought disorder [irrational thinking] was apparent.

“The clinical team had spoken to her in English.”

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Manisha Tailor

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Manisha with her twin brother, Mayur, aged six

The issue was studied in 2010 by Time to Change, a national campaign aimed at ending stigma and discrimination surrounding mental health.

It found South Asians with mental health issues had a distinct experience compared to members of other communities.

The report said mental health was rarely discussed because of the risk it posed to a family’s reputation and status.

Black magic, the will of God or bad parenting were believed to be causes of mental illness. It was also wrongly thought to be passed on through the genes to future generations and seen as an obstacle to arranged marriages as a result.

These pitfalls are all too familiar to former head teacher Manisha Tailor, from north London, whose twin brother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

She set up the Mental Health and Football project to help others with mental health conditions that inhibit verbal communication.

But the 36-year-old has not had a welcome response from her community, many of whom have shunned her brother, she said.

“I’ve lost a lot of friends,” she said. “South Asians are quite judgemental.

“As his carer, it was said I would amount to nothing, I wouldn’t get married, who would want to be with me if my brother is like that?

“I would go to weddings and people would snigger and laugh. It’s been a complete nightmare.”

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Kal Dhindsa

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Kal’s father took his life months after his uncle committed suicide

Kal Dhindsa, whose father and uncle both killed themselves, wrote a book about the tragedy; My Father & The Lost Legend of Pear Tree.

“In our culture, men are seen as the breadwinner, men of the house, top of their game,” he said. “So sufferers try to remain strong and we don’t talk about it.

“Women also find it hard to talk because they fear they’ll be labelled as ‘possessed’.”

But he believes his community should address the lack of communication about mental health that leads to people suffering in silence.

“My dad didn’t share what was on his mind – and he took his life,” he said.

“In retrospect the signs were there. We, as a community, need to talk more about these ‘difficult’ things. Talking is the cure to this illness.”

County Championship: Middlesex’s lead at the top of Division One cut to four points


Rain saw Middlesex fall short in their quest for victory on the final day against Warwickshire

Middlesex had their lead at the top of Division One cut to four points after rain meant they had to settle for a draw with Warwickshire at Edgbaston.

Persistent rain saw an early lunch taken in Birmingham at 12:30 BST.

Following a pitch inspection, play began at 15:45 BST with 36 overs to be bowled on the final day.

Warwickshire resumed on 74-3 and Ollie Rayner removed nightwatchman Chris Wright lbw, but bad light forced Middlesex to settle for nine points.

When play finally got under way, hosts captain Ian Bell (25 not out) remained watchful, as he shared an unbeaten 31-run fifth-wicket stand with Sam Hain (21 not out) to help keep the Middlesex spinners at bay.

Yorkshire reduced the gap to Middlesex at the top of the Championship by one point after picking up 10 points in their rain-affected draw with Hampshire.

Both sides, who play each other at Lord’s in the last round of Division One fixtures, have three games remaining – while Surrey, who are 12 points behind Yorkshire, have played a game more than both teams.

Warwickshire director of cricket Dougie Brown told BBC WM: “It’s another match badly damaged by the weather and I guess we were on the right side of this one. That’s four against us, two for us this season.

“We have got two very important games coming up and it was important we did not lose this one. We’re delighted to come away with a draw because those five extra draw points get us a little bit closer towards a respectable position in the table.

“Middlesex played really well and put pressure on us. It was quite a big toss to win but they made best use of it, bowling very well in the first innings in helpful conditions.”

Middlesex captain James Franklin told BBC Radio London: “It is frustrating, but we can’t control the weather. We knew it was coming but you can’t play to that too much because we had to get a total on the board.

“Yorkshire have been frustrated by weather as well, so it’s another game down, three to go and there’s an interesting 12 days ahead.

“It’s unfortunate that Adam Voges has had to stay back in Australia but they govern what he does. It gives an opportunity for someone and Stevie Eskinazi did a great job in this game.”

County Championship: Middlesex’s lead at the top of Division One cut to four points