Once you have read one ghost-written memoir, you've read them all. A cursory scan of a few chapters is normally enough. Coming Back To Me, however, Marcus Trescothick's account of his rise and then sudden fall from being one of the world's great cricketers to a mere mortal who suffered panic attacks and could no longer tour, rightly won the William Hill Sports Book of the Year prize in 2008.
Back then, at the Cheltenham literary festival, Trescothick shared a stage with former England cricketers Ed Smith and Mike Atherton, who were also promoting books. No offence to the Cambridge scholars but by the end, no one was much interested in them. It wasn't just the book, which laid bare his battle with depression, but also Trescothick's ability to unintentionally bring the house down with a mix of Bristolian innocence and charm. Like watching David Brent with a heart.
His illness meant he had to retire from international cricket and move out of the spotlight, and he has since been cautious of talking to the media. But as we sit up in the old pavilion with a panoramic view of Taunton's County Ground, it is a much more relaxed Trescothick. To our right is the Sir Ian Botham Stand and, next to it, the newly erected Marcus Trescothick Stand.
First, to matters on the pitch. Despite Somerset's humbling defeat by Warwickshire yesterday, Trescothick insists: "We can go one better this year." The Cidermen were pipped by the narrowest of margins to the County Championship title by Nottinghamshire last season, Trescothick's first as captain. "We've improved the attack. We started as favourites, which is great, but also a bit strange."
Is it all Somerset now? "I gave up thinking about it a long time ago." He doesn't have to explain that "it" means England. "Probably the last time was in 2009, when there was a possibility of making a comeback at The Oval in the Ashes." Were you tempted? He shakes his head. "Not really, maybe for a bit, but it wouldn't have been right, just to play one game. Obviously the next Test was abroad."
Giving up international sport because it is making you seriously ill must be the easiest thing in the world yet also impossibly difficult. There's the money, the adrenalin and, if you're as good as Trescothick, constantly realising your boyhood dreams.
Did he watch the Ashes during the winter? "It was brilliant. I watch England as a fan now, just like everyone else." Doesn't he miss any of it? "It's gone, I don't really think about it now." How about the captaincy? "Yeah, that would have been special, but I was not around long enough in the end," he laughs.
There are many moving passages in his book. At one point, he breaks down in front of Matthew Hoggard at seeing a baby screaming out in pain at a hospital in Rawalpindi. When the depression was at its worst, he rarely slept and suffered hallucinations.
What was it like when the book was published? He sighs. "Like a weight had been lifted. It was out there, and I wasn't hiding anything any more. The most amazing thing has been the response. People from all walks of life thanking me, wishing me well. Not one sent me a message about cricket." One man contacted Trescothick and said he believed that the book had saved his wife's life. She had identified with his symptoms.
Does Trescothick still have a message for sufferers? "Just ask for help. It's as simple as that. There is nothing to be ashamed of. You don't need to be frightened about doing it. It's tough if you're ever stuck in it, but you should never be scared of getting help. It's the only way, generally, that you're going to get better."
He is part of a growing list of sportsmen who are coming clean about depression. In snooker we've had Ronnie O'Sullivan and Graeme Dott, in football the Celtic manager Neil Lennon, in rugby union the All Black legend John Kirwan. And, of course, another England cricketer, Sussex captain Michael Yardy, had to fly home from the Cricket World Cup because of depression. Yardy had spent less than a week at home with his family in four months, which brought to mind Trescothick's torment of watching a DVD of his daughter in a hotel room, beating himself up with guilt about being an absent dad. Hotel life with England, he said, made you feel like "a five-star prisoner".
So what has Trescothick made of sportsmen being so open about their problems? "It's good. I don't think sportsmen should feel any different than anyone else about it." In Yardy's case, he said the world's cricketing boards must take a share of the blame. "The only way round the problems of touring is to reduce the number of games these boards are organising. They could do with looking at the volume of cricket and the scheduling. The way it's going, there will be even more cricket in the future, and it's bound to cause problems."
Back on the pitch, does he see himself emulating Mark Ramprakash and playing county cricket well into his 40s? "I'll play as long as it feels right. There's a buzz about this place." More importantly, is he more content? "You've got to constantly assess where you are in your life. I've learnt it's about adapting to different environments. Being comfortable in moving on." Trescothick is no longer plain "Banger" in the dressing room, these days he is also "Mad Fish". The new nickname has helped, he says, to make his problems more normal.
As I leave the pavilion, he joins the rest of the Somerset squad on the outfield. They were royally hammered by Warwickshire but the County Ground is serene in the April sunshine. Not many cameras or autograph hunters, no Barmy Army. It might not be The Oval or Lord's but the 76-Test veteran doesn't mind. He's home now; the best place he can be.Reuse content