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Ex England cricket player Phil Tufnell had to be talked out of killing himself balcony India 1993

Phil Tufnell, pictured on troubled Indian tour when he told teammate Robin Smith he’d ‘had enough’ on high hotel balcony

Former England cricket star Phil Tufnell was once so depressed he considered jumping to his death from a 150ft balcony, his teammate has revealed.

During England’s ill-fated 1993 tour of India, a 26-year-old ‘Tuffers’ told his teammate Robin Smith he’d ‘had enough’. 

He was having problems with his ex-wife Alison and performing badly on the field.

Tufnell and Smith sat on their hotel room balcony 150ft off the ground with their legs dangling down. 

Smith, now 55, desperately tried to talk him out of it and was scared of falling himself, before the team’s spiritual adviser stepped in and saved the day. 

The batsman made the shock confession in his new autobiography ‘The Judge: More Than Just A Game’. 

Tufnell, now 53, was brought in for the second and third Tests against India in 1993, but England lost both matches by an innings, slumping to a 3-0 series defeat.

In a warm-up game ahead of the second Test, he bowled 11 no balls, kicked his cap in frustration, had an argument with an umpire and was fined £500.

It was after that match Smith found his friend sat on the balcony, with no railings to save him, contemplating killing himself, he says.   

Writing in his book, Smith said: ‘I roomed with Tuffers a few times and always looked out for him on tour.

‘He’s a genuinely good bloke, very sensitive despite the cheeky-chappy exterior.

‘Tuffers was having a really difficult tour of India. He went as our match-winner but was left out of the first Test because of indifferent form in the warm-up games. It was a ridiculous decision.

‘Before the second Test we played a match against the Rest of India in Visakhapatnam, and Tuffers lost his rag when Richard Blakey failed to stump Sachin Tendulkar.

Phil Tufnell struggled on England's difficult tour to India. Pictured: He receives the ball during India's innings victory at the Chidambaram Stadium in Madras (now Ceannai) on 11 February 1993

Pictured: Phil Tufnell playing for England in the Test series in India in 1993

Phil Tufnell struggled on England’s difficult tour to India. Pictured: He receives the ball during India’s innings victory at the Chidambaram Stadium in Madras (now Chennai) on 11 February 1993

‘At the end of the over he hoofed his cap away, had a row with the umpire and was later fined £500.

‘I sensed his morale was at an all-time low. He was also having problems with his ex-wife Alison, who he had separated from a few years earlier, and he looked as if he was at the end of his tether.

‘I left him to it and went out for a while. When I returned Tuffers was sitting on the edge of the balcony, looking down.

‘There was no railing and we were about 50 metres above the ground.

‘I was instantly terrified, so I sat next to him on the balcony. I didn’t particularly enjoy having my feet dangling over the edge but I didn’t know what else to do. I put my arm around him and we started chatting.

‘He said: ‘It’s too much, and today has topped it off. Judgie, I’ve had enough’.

A year later, Tufnell would go on to make headlines for trashing his Australian hotel room during the 1994-95 Ashes. 

He ended up in a psychiatric unit, but later laughed it off, telling the Daily Mirror at the time: ‘It was quite funny, really. They took me off to this bleeding nuthouse and this bloke comes in and says, “Tell me about your childhood” and I think, “What am I doing here?”

Tufnell has since rebuilt himself as a popular media figure. Here he visits the London fan zone earlier this month during the Cricket World Cup

Tufnell has since rebuilt himself as a popular media figure. Here he visits the London fan zone earlier this month during the Cricket World Cup

‘So I just legged it out with all these blokes running after me. I got myself back to the hotel, got myself a beer, went into the team room and said, ‘Sorry about that, chaps, see you at breakfast tomorrow morning.’

But back in 1993, Smith was worried he wouldn’t be able to talk his teammate down.

He continued: ‘He kept jolting forward, and I was frantically trying to work out what to do if he jumped.

‘If I tried to grab him, I’d probably fall with him and it would look like some sort of suicide pact.

‘While keeping my eyes on him, I swung my feet back into the room and called the Reverend Andrew Wingfield-Digby, who was on tour with us as a spiritual adviser.

‘He was a delightful man, totally non-judgemental, and with a serenity that made everything seem okay.

Pictured: Robin Smith in August 2018

Pictured: Robin Smith in August 2018  

‘Wingers’ arrived straight away – maybe he’d seen the signs too – and started to chat with Tuffers while I chipped in occasionally. Tuffers and I were in tears.

‘After two horrible hours in which I feared my mate might take his own life, Tuffers came back into the room. I honestly think Wingers saved his life that night.’

Phil Tufnell’s manager, Mike Martin, today described the incident in 1993 as ‘a personal story’ which he regretted had been made public in Robin Smith’s book. 

Mr Martin said: ‘Whilst Robin has chosen to publicise it, I would respectfully request on behalf of Phil that it is left personal and private and not be publicised further.’ 

A left-arm spin bowler, Tufnell played in 42 Test matches and 20 One Day Internationals for the England cricket team.

After retirement he won ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!’ in 2003, before performing on Strictly Come Dancing in 2008.

He is now a team captain on the BBC One quiz show ‘A Question of Sport’.

In an interview in 2018, Tufnell admitted he was ‘lost’ growing up after his mother, Sylvia, died when he was 16 after a battle with leukaemia.

He said: ‘I went off the rails, left the sport and got a motorbike. I had been all right at school, then I was expelled.

‘Everything became a bit pointless. Thankfully, my dad dragged me out of it and tried to point me down the right path.’ 

He now works for two charities. He is president of cricket charity Cricket For Change and the vice president of The Children’s Trust, Tadworth – an organisation for children with brain injuries.

Phil Tufnell’s manager, Mike Martin, today described the incident in 1993 as ‘a personal story’ which he regretted had been made public in Robin Smith’s book.

Mr Martin said: ‘Whilst Robin has chosen to publicise it, I would respectfully request on behalf of Phil that it is left personal and private and not be publicised further.’

Robin Smith has also battled depression and has also admitted considering suicide in his retirement years.

In 2013 living in Australia he drank vodka ‘by the bottle’ and he ‘knew I was going to commit suicide but I didn’t know exactly what day it would be and how I was going to do it’, he told The Guardian.

For confidential support in the UK you can call Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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