I feel almost slightly guilty about writing a piece on Trescothick having not read his book; I’m not sure I should be allowed. It means I have little or no real insight when it comes to his problems off the field, problems which ended a pretty decent England career at least 5 years before it might have been – and probably affected it throughout. Thankfully having little or no real insight hasn’t stopped me writing the previous 84 articles on this blog and there are enough golden moments in Trescothick’s career for me to gloss over the issues he faced and instead try to concentrate on those sumptuously meaty forearms.
The stats are favourable if not world class: Trescothick averaged 44 in Test cricket, which is comparable to most English openers over the past 30 years apart from Cook. He also lit up the England ODI side with 12 centuries and 21 demi-centuries at a strike rate of 85 (what we’d do for that kind of biff at the top of the order now!). It is hard to imagine him not being selected up until very recently in both formats had the illness not got to him, in which case he’d now be England’s top run scorer across both formats. He was potentially brutal in iT20 too; though he played just 3 games he made demi-centuries in two of them.
Trescothick was at his best uncompromising, a tall built man with what looked like a really heavy bat; the ball generally knew when it was hit and obligingly raced to the boundary with a thud. Fielding at gully or backward point to the quicks with Trescothick at the crease would have been frightening enough, let alone at short leg to a spinner (oh how lovely it was to see an Englishman successfully take on Warne). There was a simplicity to Trescothick’s batting which is tough to describe. He could hit it a long way, he could hit it powerfully. He also had a nice touch down to third man and a well-timed cover drive.
There is something more than decent stats and fine forearms that Trescothick was to me though. Along with Michael Vaughan he represented something much more tangible – hope. Not just any old hope, but hope for a generation of England fans who had grown up seeing ‘batsmen’ like Usman Afzaal and Ian Ward selected for England, hope a generation who were forced to witness Mark Butcher rack up 72 god-awful England caps (caveat: plus THAT knock at Headingley), and hope that England could emerge as a side capable of playing with the best again-something which had completely eluded the 1990s.
My favourite Trescothick moment boils down to a choice between two:
The first came in Johannesburg in 2004, across the last two days of the 4th Test where he brutally smashed 180 from 248 balls against an attack containing Ntini, Kallis, Pollock and a young Dale Steyn to set up an England victory and clinch the series. It was a thrilling, quick paced and high scoring Test but apart from Trescothick’s knock specific memories completely elude me. I just cannot think of another English cricketer capable of such a role. It was Somerset’s answer to Matt Hayden on crack.
The second was a ‘mere’ 90. However it came after England had been drubbed in the First Test of the 2005 Ashes series, it came off just 102 balls, and it included 15 fours and 2 DLF Maximums. It set the tone for a bizarre day where England went toe-to-toe with Australia and ended up 407 all out, scoring at over 5 an over. It wasn’t a huge score and therefore it wasn’t statistically that significant, but it was something else: a sign of a mentality of no fear. It was England fronting up, Trescothick the catalyst. There is always a danger of placing too much importance on moments within that 2005 series purely as a result of it being that series – argued as the pinnacle of Test cricket in my lifetime and ending 18 years of drubbings. If I could pick one moment or day from the series though, it would be that day.
Losing Trescothick to illness saw England lose something at the top of the order which they haven’t ever really replaced. Strauss and Cook were perhaps one of the top post-war opening pairs England have ever had, and Cook as Trescothick’s direct replacement is a run accumulator of frightening magnitude. However they lack an ability to truly intimidate and dominate a bowling attack. They wear bowlers down, whereas Trescothick could brutalise them.
I’m hesitant to speak too much about Trescothick’s stress-related illness as I haven’t read his book, plus I’m not an expert on, well, anything. I have read Robert Enke’s book and was really moved by it. What I would also say is that there are a considerable number of people I’ve come across (mainly in my working life) who say they are depressed and I find I have little sympathy for them. Then I feel there is a small percentage of those who are actually ‘depressed’ depressed and deserve all the help they can get. Trescothick is one of them. I miss him in the England set-up, but if touring or being involved exacerbates his illness even slightly, then I don’t want him involved. It is more than fair enough by me that he is happy to plunder County attacks at Taunton until he is 40 – I’ll still class him as one of the men who brought England into the 21st Century and remember his England antics fondly enough to be writing an ill-informed piece on him 5 years after retirement.
The Wrong Un XI
2. Marcus Trescothick