For the 3rd time in 2 years, England’s Marcus Trescothick has bailed on a tour under unusual circumstances. On two of those occasions, including this week’s departure from the England side on the eve of The Ashes series with Australia, stress was cited.

Not only is The Times’ Simon Barnes sympathetic, but he’s surprised Trescothick isn’t being pilloried for his absence.

Perhaps the remarkable thing about the Trescothick Affair has been the near-total absence of recrimination heaped on Trescothick. The above two paragraphs look not only absurd but inhuman. Almost universally, the response has been sympathetic and compassionate.

It represents a dramatic change in attitudes not only to mental problems but to sport. Phil Tufnell met a very different response when he had a breakdown on the Ashes tour of 1994-95. He trashed his hotel room, went into an extended crying jag and was taken by team-mates to a psychiatric institution.

He discharged himself, bought himself a lager and packet of fags and went back to the team-room with the memorable words: œAll right then? Despite its ludicrous side, this was a dark night of the soul by anybody™s reckoning. The cricket authorities fined Tufnell £1,000 for going through it. That™ll teach him to have a breakdown.

Tufnell was used to a certain amount of consideration. But at the hour of his greatest need, cricket treated him in a manner that now seems shocking. It really wouldn™t happen today. Trescothick has been treated with compassion even by his opponents: there has been no pommy-poofter-can™t-take-it stuff. Ricky Ponting, the Australia captain, made some generous remarks.

All of this shows a remarkable change. Once again, sport has dramatised a change in society, a change in our culture, a change in the way we see and understand life. A person ” a man, a sportsman, that is to say a professional toughie ” can suffer mental problems and excite not contempt but compassion.

Well, yeah. As long as they’re not Ron Artest, Terrell Owens or Barrett Robbins.