SKipper: Marcus Trescothick, never a captain, forever a frontrunner
At the beginning of the millennium, England were in need of a stand-in one-day opener, and their coach Duncan Fletcher turned to a man whom he had witnessed slam a crafty 167 just a year back against Glamorgan, the team then coached by him. Following seven successful years at Somerset, the lanky left-hander, Marcus Trescothick was ready to wear the England shirt.
On his debut against Zimbabwe, Trescothick’s patient 79 went in vain, but his calm and capable character scarcely went unnoticed. Just over a month later, he was prepared in his Test whites to face the modern pair of West Indies greats Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh.
A proven Somerset great – at 41, he is still active as opener – Trescothick spent his short, curtailed England career under the leadership of first Nasser Hussain and then Michael Vaughan.
Despite many memorable knocks for his country, Trescothick’s role remained restricted to that of a senior batsman once he established himself on the highest stage. Though Trescothick could convert only a few of his first fifties into hundreds, his fourth Test century – a career-best 219 against South Africa in 2003 – contributed heavily towards an England win to level the series.
A steady accumulator of runs, he pleased his fans with fluent cover drives redolent of a left-handed batsman and a subtle stability unmatched by most openers in England during his times. With time, he sealed his place at the top of the order and continued his surge in international cricket, and a cluster of runs while in Sri Lanka and India early in his career confirmed he was a man for all conditions.
Only a year after he first appeared for his country, he was handed over the reins to lead England in an ODI in Zimbabwe. Trescothick avenged defeat which he had encountered on debut by scripting a win by 70 runs, having himself contributed 52.
Further captaincy opportunities arrived with time, as Trescothick led England against South Africa in an ODI each in 2003 and 2005. Midway through 2004, in Hussain’s farewell Test where regular captain Vaughan was absent, he was crowned England’s stand-in Test captain for the first time. Chasing 282 against New Zealand at Lord’s, the hosts romped home to a seven-wicket win.
That preceded a sublime innings of 104 in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy at home in 2004. While everyone around him fell to either perfect bowling or agile fielding – Brian Lara had snaffled two outstanding catches – Trescothick stood his ground at The Oval and dragged England single-handedly.
Not to be bogged down, he remained composed while cutting and punching the pacers, punishing them alike when they were either too short and wide or too full and over-pitched. Eleven of his 14 fours came off pace bowling and eventually it took another alert effort by Lara to run him out. And though England lost a thriller, his famous knock remains etched in Champions Trophy history.
Smoothly slipping into the international scene, at times, Trescothick acted as a pinch-hitter for England – not as ferocious as Adam Gilchrist or Virender Sehwag, but with a sense of tranquillity reminiscent of an Englishman until England introduced Kevin Pietersen to the world. If needed, Trescothick could chip in with his mediocre medium-pace; and when not batting, he contributed vitally on the field. Across both formats, Trescothick was assigned the duty of leading England’s slip cordon, something he did with complete dignity.
It was in 2005 that captaincy – rather back-up captaincy – embraced Trescothick more often. First, he led twice during the tri-series involving Australia and Bangladesh at home; then, while in Pakistan during the winter, Trescothick started the tour as skipper in the first Test at Multan – the final five-day game in which he would be an England captain. When the ODI leg of the tour commenced, he was responsible for the side during the entire five-match series.
That was it, as far as leadership was concerned. Despite always acting as deputy to Vaughan and laying the platform with the bat up front, Trescothick was never considered an able leader. Despite wearing the captain’s hat in 12 international matches for England, Trescothick was never given England duty permanently in spite of injuries and fitness questions against Vaughan.
But only six years into international cricket, Trescothick’s career was curbed by bouts of depression, often a result of considerable time spent away from home. Quietly, Trescothick flew back home from India in 2006 only to report a stress-related illness which would untimely end his international career. He did, however, return to the England eleven when Sri Lanka arrived in England post the India visit.
But his absence was confirmed from the Champions Trophy later in the year. And when the most important opposition came calling – the Australians for the Ashes – Trescothick was compelled to quit another tour without any participation as illness hit him again. When he did resume playing for Somerset in 2007, his good form earned him a place in England’s preliminary 30-man squad for the World T20 in South Africa. But Trescothick did not make it to the final fifteen.
Come next March, with Somerset set to visit the UAE, he first dropped out of that tour and then announced his retirement from international cricket. Depression and stress-related illness, whose future victims would also be Trescothick’s countrymen Michael Yardy and Jonathan Trott, provoked him to walk into the sunset prematurely.
He left the stage following 76 Tests,123 ODIs and 3 T20s in England colours. But his commitment to Somerset continued and he was named captain in 2010, a responsibility he carried out until 2015. In 2011, Trescothick led Somerset to the final of the Friends Life T20 as well as the Clydesdale Bank 40, though they came second in both tournaments.
Post international retirement, Somerset enjoyed the fruits of Trescothick’s persistent progress as a batsman and even named a stand after him at their home ground. This season, after yet another wonderful century against Warwickshire at Taunton, Trescothick eclipsed Harold Gimblett to hold the most centuries for Somerset.
There was little doubt about Trescothick’s batting abilities with his attacking style of play; there was little doubt about his leadership abilities when he was repeatedly named England’s stand-in captain and there is little doubt he had tremendous potential to be the leader of the national team permanently.
It is tragic his career met a sudden end, and it is tragic that Duncan Fletcher, England’s coach – and also their selection team – for eight years, never considered Marcus Trescothick able enough to lead, something which Somerset, whom he has been serving since 1993, exploited for five years.