Cricket: Boy who faded in a man's world

Stephen Fay discovers Marcus Trescothick is battling for success
MARCUS TRESCOTHICK behaves like an even-tempered cricketer. Despite having one of the longest names in the business, he obliged all the autograph hunters at Chelmsford last week. He must be responsible as well, having been appointed vice-captain of Somerset aged 23. But he does get cross about the way the England Under-19 selectors keep on picking players who he believes would be better employed learning their trade on the county circuit.

The ECB tells us that the success of the Under-19 team shows what is right about English cricket. Trescothick, on the contrary, thinks this series against Australia's tyro cricketers is a pest and a distraction. Somerset's Matthew Bulbeck is the focus of his discontent. "We're losing him for three games this year. It's just a joke. We shouldn't stand in the way of letting him play the best cricket possible."

Trescothick speaks from experience. "I went through exactly the same situation. It was just a disgrace." No one thought so at the time, when he and Michael Vaughan of Yorkshire were piling up hundreds of runs opening for the Under-19s. Trescothick's 206 in 233 balls against India in 1994 was described in awed tones. "I was pretty naive at that age: 'Watch the ball. Hit it for four.' I was on top of the world, and I played county cricket without knowing what it was about."

He was impressive to watch, but his carefree batting cloaked a failing that was soon exposed by bowling in the adult game. His problem was that he did not move his feet. He became a regular in the Somerset team when he was 18, and in the long summers in Taunton, Trescothick experienced the pressure of playing day in, day out. "You start to think about it a bit more."

He started thinking four years ago, and he still has not worked it out. As for Under-19 cricket, it is just a memory now: "Played it, enjoyed it, and moved on."

Trescothick was born in Keynsham, in Somerset, and the burr is still distinct in his voice. He is a lanky 6ft 2in; red-cheeked, skin drawn tight over the bones. He was feeling a bit sorry for himself at Chelmsford having got out for a duck in Somerset's second innings. He has managed his highest score in first-class cricket this summer (190), but he has had a couple of niggling injuries which have kept him out of two of Somerset's four NatWest games. (He scored 38 and 29 when he did play.) His present county average of 26.31 is slightly lower than his career first-class average of 27.95.

Trescothick is conscious of having underachieved. He says he has been working harder this year than ever before. Much of this summer's work has been in the nets. "I have a lot of enthusiasm for the game, but it is hard to pick yourself up when things don't go right. I am down at the moment, but you build yourself up for the next game, or you don't go far."

Jamie Cox, Somerset's laudable Tasmanian captain, is an admirer, though with one qualification. "Marcus is a phenomenal talent; he's as clean a striker of the ball as we've got in our club, but he has a couple of technical things to sort out. His feet are very one-dimensional. They tend to go straight down the wicket rather than to the ball. It makes him a bit susceptible to the nick."

Cox has been an unqualified success at Taunton (Trescothick says team spirit is probably better than he has ever known it), but he is aware that he will return to Tasmania, and he suggests Somerset could build a side around his young vice- captain. "He has a head to be captain, and he's taken over the side admirably when I've been away for a couple of one-day games. The only thing he needs to be a natural leader is to be one of those players who are picked first. He needs to get his game completely in order."

Trescothick is conscious of the criticism: "I'm on the right road, trying to tighten up everything. I still play quite a lot of shots, though I wouldn't go back to the way I used to play."

He has no inhibitions about his ambition. He wants to captain Somerset and open for England: "You've got to believe it or you might as well give up now." In the meantime, he stands in the slips and passes advice to Jamie Cox, who takes it seriously, and he considers himself to be the natural contact man with the youngsters in a squad with a group of good players in their early twenties.

Trescothick appears to be self-contained and unemotional. He says he has not noticed much hype in the West Country about today's clash with Gloucestershire. "I don't think it makes any difference who it's going to be. It's going to be a good day." He pauses, as if he realises he has underplayed the occasion: "It's going to be the biggest day of my career," he says.

Those early triumphs in the Under-19 team lie forgotten in a vault in the memory bank. Trescothick judges himself by harsher standards. If he meets them, his forceful batting will add to the gaiety of the nation. If not, he will eventually go the way of most of his contemporaries in the Under-19 team.