Tom Maynard was 23, in love with a model girlfriend, earning richly and driving a black Mercedes car. He was tipped to play for England like his father Matthew. Who could ask for anything more?
Yet, one evening last summer, after playing in a Twenty20 match for his county Surrey, Tom went to the pub and on to a nightclub. He had 20 drinks and he may have taken cocaine and Ecstasy.
Afterwards he drove — erratically — towards his girlfriend’s home, was stopped by the police and ran off. An hour later he was found dead on a Tube line, electrocuted and hit by a train.
Cricket authority in this country has gone into shock and after the inquest this week promised greater checks on all players. A drug expert had stated that Maynard’s body showed signs that he indulged his habit regularly, even daily, yet his Surrey captain, his best pal and his girlfriend claimed they did not know he was using drugs. They should have watched more carefully.
So should the men who control the game. The illicit use of drugs has been common in cricket — and in football and Rugby — in the last 30 years. I have seen it at parties, heard the stories, talked to those who indulge. It is a habit of the young almost everywhere on earth. Why should cricket be any different?
All games can, due to their popular acclaim, brush unpleasant facts under the carpet. Their fans do not, in the main, want to know about their heroes’ shortcomings. They want victories from happy guys and if that means a little naughtiness, so be it; authority has to see life differently.
Drugs are illegal here but they are also commonplace. The people who damn their use also indulge. So do sportsmen who are often allowed to get away with their habit.
Cricket ought to set an example by acknowledging there is a problem that outstrips match-fixing. Instead the bosses plead ignorance, quote figures which show it is a rarity and blame anyone rather than acknowledging their own faults.
They should have taken firmer action when one former Test cricketer was sent to jail for bringing drugs into the country. They should not have ignored the confessions of another promising all-rounder, or the conviction long ago of a former England captain.
It is not new. In Australia in 1982-3, the following year in New Zealand and Pakistan — where a kindly Customs chief allowed drugs in and out of the country to avoid embarrassment — and in the West Indies on another trip soon afterwards there was ample evidence of cricketers using drugs.
In the last five years one Test fast bowler has tested positive (and tried to bribe me to tell him who leaked the story as if that was the greater offence).
At that time the limited earning power of all but the top players meant that it was not as widespread as it has become. Now, when most players earn much more than the average man of their age, there is certainly the opportunity for a greater indulgence by those who are careless with their talent.
Young Maynard’s death ought — to use a dreadful contradiction in terms — to be a wake-up call for ICC and ECB and every other national cricketing body in the world.
If it is not, he has died in vain and all the high-sounding declarations of the past week were wasted. The odd pint of beer after the game might be acceptable but no-one ought to contemplate playing a dangerous game with drugs coursing through his veins.