There are two ways to bat – you can either seek to score runs or you can seek to play out the overs. Some puritan fans of Test cricket argue that the latter is the more important skill – that you are not a good Test player unless you can play out the overs when required. However, cricket matches are won only when you score more runs than the other team, and so while playing out the overs is important at certain times in the match, the value of run-scoring ability should not be ignored.
Sometimes, however, especially say when you are chasing a big fourth innings target on a nebulous wicket, you could decide to eschew any thoughts on run scoring and instead focus on hanging in there. You decide to devote all your energies to just “staying alive”, and just playing out the overs. In that sense, yes, playing out the overs without necessarily scoring runs can sometimes be a valid strategy.
However, you should notice that it remains a valid strategy only until the end of that particular Test match! Once the stumps are drawn at the end of the fifth day, with you hopefully still unbeaten and your team escaping with a draw, things are reset to zero! The next Test match is a whole new game, and you start off from zero, and you cannot afford to start that Test match batting the same way you did while you were trying to save the earlier match! You need to realize that you should include some run-scoring in your objective function, too!
Sometimes in life, when you are going through a tough phase for whatever reason, you might make a decision to “simply hang in there”. At these points in time, you don’t care whether you really achieve something in that time period – all you seek to do is to prevent further damage to yourself – this is similar to trying to play out the overs in a Test match.
I argue that this can be a viable strategy if and only if you decide to “play out the overs” until a fixed point in time! The difference between game and life is that game has a specified end-point. At four thirty on the final day, if you are still batting, the game is a draw, irrespective of whether you were one down or nine down! The next Test starts on a clean slate. This, however, doesn’t apply to life.
Life doesn’t have clear breakpoints like cricket does. And sometimes when you get yourself “nine down and far behind in terms of runs”, you find that you begin the “next Test match” (if you can divide life into discrete units called Test matches) at a disadvantage, and soon find yourself far behind and unable to cope.
Given that life doesn’t play out the same way as a game of cricket, you should use the strategy of “playing out the overs” only sparingly, and only when you see a clear “gamechanger moment” after which your equation is reset to zero! If you choose to overplay this strategy, however, not much good is going to come out of it.
So, what does depression have to do with all this? I’ve found depression to be a state of mind where you want to play out the overs even in situations where it is not the right thing to do (think, for example, of India’s third Test against the West Indies in Dominica in 2011). And soon you get into the state of mind of just playing out the overs that you lose all ambitions and hopes and desires for run-scoring. And soon you find yourself in a rut. And you decide to “play out” the rut by continuing to dig in. And that makes you sink deeper. It becomes harder to “play out” but now you know no other strategy, and soon get into a bad downward spiral.
If you find yourself “playing out the overs” way too often, it is an indication of trouble. It means that you are possibly exposing yourself to a downward spiral. And it is possible that you need help. The next time you get the desire of wanting to “play out the overs”, check if there is going to be an end to it, and implement the strategy if and only if you see a clear end.