Marcus Trescothick: Country boy who keeps his country on the front foot

If there were averages for the most slaps on the back, 'Tres' would be top of them. Stephen Brenkley speaks to the opener
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"Ask anybody who's captained him and they'd all say the same, you can't wish for a better person in your team," writes the captain of the man who might once have had the job himself. Among a squad who have achieved what they have precisely because of their team ethos there can be no higher praise: the team men's team man.

It probably derives from Trescothick's nature and his background as a Somerset country boy. If a colleague wants throw-downs at the end of a nets session when most of the chaps are drifting off, Trescothick will be the man to ask. It is probably no accident that he is usually the man bearing the helmet, the superfluous jumpers and shining the ball.

If there were averages on which England player gives most slaps on the back, Tres would be at the top. In some ways he is the catalyst for the whole unifying force. Without it, the Ashes would not have come home.

"I try and make the effort to sort things out," he said. "I just help other people in terms of practice and what have you. It's a good thing and a bad thing. There are times when you'd wish you could be tougher, a bit more selfish, and I am better now than I used to be. I don't know whether that's a good thing to say or not."

England will need his brand of unquestioning magnanimity in the next eight weeks. They will be welcomed wholeheartedly on their tour of Pakistan, but the luxuriousness of the hotels in which they will stay cannot disguise the tough aspects of the trip: living in an alien culture under high security in a place devastated by recent disaster.

"There are a lot of things you have to do to be able to enjoy it," Trescothick said at England's pre-tour training camp last week. "There are things we have to keep in check, but we have to help in any way we can, we are ambassadors and maybe more public figures now.

"The fact that we are going there now in sad circumstances is almost an ideal time for them. Pakistan is one of the hardest tours, but I'm sure we can help people out. There are other jobs to do apart from playing cricket, and we're heading right for the heart of it."

There cannot be many members of any England side who would have spoken like that. Lest anybody presume that it is always sweetness and light, and that Vaughany and Tres and the rest of the boys are invariably all pals together, it should be pointed out that they have their moments.

"Me and him have fallen out a couple of times, arguing on the pitch," said Trescothick. "I've said something to him about tactics or something, or losing the plot, and trudged off back to slip, and we wouldn't speak for the rest of the day. And then we'd go out to dinner. Maybe he'd disagree with my suggestion, maybe I'd gone up at the wrong moment, he knows I'm only doing it for the team.

"He'd be happy again in two minutes, I'd be grumpy for the rest of the day. I don't know how much tactical influence I have, he makes 99 per cent of the decisions and we can only give opinions. He's been sharp, absolutely sharp, this summer."

If Vaughan is clearly the leader, his relationship with Trescothick is crucial, perhaps more so than between any two senior England players of recent vintage. They have known and liked each other since playing together for England Under-19s. Before Vaughan was made captain, it had been expected for much of the previous two years that the job would go to Trescothick - yet he was the first person to ring Vaughan on his appointment. He would not want the job now.

"After being close to Michael for the last two years and seeing what he has gone through I don't know if I could cope with that, deal with it at the highest level. The easy bit is on the pitch almost. I don't think I'm the right person, and would strongly advise them to look elsewhere if asked. I'm happy to be the lieutenant rather than the general and there is still an influence to be had, marshalling the troops at a lower level behind the scenes."

Trescothick was on the last tour to Pakistan five years ago, but he still had lakes behind the lugs then as an international cricketer. He is the senior professional in the side now, 66 Tests and 109 one-day matches down the road from his thunderous debut in the summer of 2000.

He is a world-class batsman perhaps in spite of rather than because of his method, which involves slightly less use of the feet than a man wearing diving boots in quicksand. But he is constantly tinkering with little things here and there, cajoled and abetted by the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, after a wholesale overnight change failed in Australia three years ago.

"It's happened over two years instead of two weeks. Different pieces have been added here and there. You can never stop improving, obviously, and with experience you get better. I'm not tinkering exactly but I'm always working at my game, trying to learn more about it. But it's tiny little things, I don't want to go into great detail."

These are things not discernible by most observers, even experts (though Fletcher spots them from 100 paces), but in South Africa he changed the position of his right arm by a matter of millimetres. Days later in Durban he made a century.

He was desperate to do well against Australia. He had a bad time of it Down Under on England's last tour, never coming to terms with pace on the faster pitches, and had not done much better against them at home in 2001. But this summer he played with rare command. He attacked them from the off and they had little response. Many judges would argue that the way he and Andrew Strauss went about their business on the first morning at Edgbaston changed things forever.

England, 1-0 down, had been inserted, but the pair galloped along to 112 in even time. "We had talked about it in a meeting beforehand and it was always along the lines of enjoying and expressing ourselves. If you want to hit a six, do it. We went from under pressure to putting them under pressure. Within 20 minutes the momentum had changed." In the series Trescothick made 431 runs at 43. Only an Ashes hundred was missing. "I want to get the monkey off my back so everyone can move on, but I'm not obsessing about it when I walk to the wicket."

His summer was the more exemplary for the manner in which it started. After returning from South Africa, Trescothick had a series of migraines which were affecting his vision.

"People were bowling at 60mph and I was like, 'What happened to that? I had eight migraines in 10 days and I didn't know what was happening. I had my eyes tested, and although they were fine I was given a little box with a screen through which I peered, looking at a dot and making my peripheral vision work. I had massage and the top of my neck was all jammed up.

"In the nick of time it cleared up, and in the First Test of the summer, against Bangladesh, I went out at Lord's and got a hundred. It was all to do with the stress of the baby, the fact that I wasn't getting much sleep and didn't know what was going on. I was coming back home feeling absolutely terrible, and that was making it worse."

The baby, Ellie Louise, is six months old. She and dad are sleeping better. The Ashes having been safely captured, he is anxious to progress. "Obviously, it's a huge thing, but there are bigger things to achieve. We've done well for two-and-a-half years and we have to make that five years. I know we've made history, but I'm still going home and worrying about things going on in the house. Occasionally I look at a couple of pictures and think what a great thing that was, things that capture the moment, and then you go back to changing the nappy." A team man at home as well, then.

Life & Times: From Keynsham to Lord's

BORN: 25 December 1975 in Keynsham, Somerset.

VITAL STATS: 6ft 3in, 14st 7lb.

CAREER: Somerset 1993 to present, capped 1999. Has played 192 first-class matches with a batting average of 36.18, and 66 Tests and 109 ODIs for England since debut in 2000 with batting averages of 45.27 (12 hundreds) and 37.72 (10 hundreds). England's second-highest scorer in Ashes series with 431 runs.

ALSO: Outstanding youth player who revitalised his career by scoring 167 for Somerset in front of England coach Duncan Fletcher while he was still at Glamorgan in 1999. Known as Banger for his love of sausages but has slimmed considerably in last two years.