Robson Sharuko in MELBOURNE, Australia
A RECOVERING alcoholic, who was so depressed last year he even contemplated killing himself, was the Irishman who sealed Zimbabwe’s fate at this World Cup in Hobart on Saturday night with a shameless piece of fielding dishonesty that has soiled this global cricket showcase.
John Mooney will not get many beer offers should he come to a Harare pub soon and, for good reason too, after he sunk Zimbabwe’s hopes to keep alive their World Cup campaign with one of the most controversial piece of fielding ever seen at this tournament.
Some have even gone to the extent of calling him a cheat, and it’s something that he probably deserves, after his game-changing moment turned a thrilling World Cup game on its head and helped Ireland to a five-wicket win at the Blundstone Arena.
For the Zimbabweans, who needed the win to remain in the tournament, Mooney’s controversial catch at the boundary, to dismiss Sean Williams when he had looked set for a century and shepherding his team to the biggest World Cup chase in the history of this tournament, ended their hopes of taking their battle for a last eight place into the final round of fixtures.
And, as the world exploded in rage after judging that Mooney had not only cheated but had also given the Irish the benefit they didn’t deserve, in a game known for its purity, the bitter pill was too much for the Zimbabweans to bear.
This has been a tournament in which the umpires have seemingly conspired to kick them in the teeth and Chris Gayle’s incredible let-off, saved by a diabolical umpire’s call when trapped plumb lbw on zero, gave him the life to score a double century in the West Indies’ win over the Zimbabweans.
Then, as if that was not enough, giant Pakistan seamer, Mohammad Irfan, kept bowling some no-balls, which were somehow not picked by the umpires, and he made a huge difference as he helped his team squeeze Zimbabwe from chasing a small target.
Brendan Taylor, the Zimbabwe stand-in skipper, was so distraught on Saturday, saying that in this game, it was always important to build everything on trust and, for that, he believed Mooney when he claimed the catch even though television replays showed otherwise.
“You’ve got to take his (Mooney’s) word for it,” said Taylor as his team counted the massive costs of being eliminated in such farcical fashion.
“They zoomed in, and I thought it was pretty clear. But you’ve got to take the fielder’s word.”
But is it possible for a person like Mooney to be trusted?
The Irish cricketer was so depressed recently that he returned from a tour of the Caribbean early and then revealed to Hugh Cahill on 2FM’s Game On show that he battled alcoholism and came close to killing himself.
“I have had suicidal thoughts. I had to tell my wife about it. She was devastated. That was the first time I had to go into St Pats”(St Patrick’s Hospital),” he said.
“It would have been easy to go through with the plan I had. But to go through the process of getting help was the best decision I ever made.
“The thoughts (of killing himself) just pop into your head and you can’t stop them
“Things slipped for me in the Caribbean. I had been drinking too much and it came to a halt for me on that tour.
The decision was made by me and my wife, Lena and Simo (Ireland coach Phil Simmons) to come home
“For a number of years I started to withdraw from everyday life. I was drinking excessively. I was masking my feelings. A lot of men don’t speak about their feelings and I am one of those people. I spent about 20 years not speaking about my feelings. It was a really tough process to get where I am today.
“My father dropped dead in front of me as an 11-year-old boy and I never really dealt with those issues. In my teenage years, I got into a bit of trouble. But I made a promise to him that I was going to play cricket for Ireland. That was the real driving force for me to stay in the game.
“But a couple of years, I fell out of love with the game completely. I didn’t find much pleasure in anything. I had to go to counselling and that started to stir up a lot of emotional feelings.”
He admitted that he kept all this stress from his teammates and the professionals who were supposed to help him.
“My teammates didn’t know so they couldn’t look out for me. I could have got teammates to come out for a few beers any night of the week without them realising that I should not be drinking with the medication that I’m on,” he said.
“For the first year-and-a-half, I didn’t tell my counsellor the truth. It’s only in the last few months that I have started to get places. I’ve only started to embrace it in the last while and it has been a huge weight off my shoulders.
“It took a lot of sessions and a lot of money to get to a point where I was comfortable talking about things.”
For a man of such a character, who has so much weighing down on his shoulders, it was very unlikely that, in the defining moment of such a big game, he could be trusted to have the honesty, let alone the decency, to concede that his foot touched the boundary.