Small-town roots are key to Trescothick's crisis of confidence

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The Independent Online

In the stifling heat of Galle five years ago, Marcus Trescothick made his maiden Test hundred. It was a determined, self-denying affair on a devilishly slow turner.

At the end of its 394 minutes, he saluted a particular group in the English section of the crowd, a small band from his home town club in Keynsham. Trescothick was in the big time, but he was not about to forget that he was a small-town boy and what it had meant to him.

He has come a long way since, a big-time cricketer in every sense, who owes England nothing. But with the news this week that he has withdrawn from the first part of the winter - the Champions Trophy in India - because of continuing treatment for a stress-related condition, the thought recurred that you can take the boy out of Keynsham but you cannot take Keynsham out of the boy.

Trescothick is still available for the most important, and possibly life-defining parts of the winter, the defence of the Ashes and the attempt to bring the World Cup to England for the first time, which follows. But the question remains and has been constantly asked these past few days: if he is suffering stress, how will he cope with a tour of Australia and the attendant baggage that goes with it, not least insensitive comments from those who are expert in the language of Strine, which is most of the population?

The England coach, Duncan Fletcher, lent his support to Trescothick, as had the captain (for the time being anyway) Andrew Strauss the day before. "It's just like any other injury," said Fletcher. "If someone's got a hamstring injury are you confident it will stand up? I've got to go on medical advice."

To equate Trescothick's condition with those to bodily parts may be pushing it but Fletcher was determinedly upbeat, a mood which does not always come naturally to him. "We have people who are monitoring him, they're very confident he will be fit. He was nearly confident for the Indian trip, but it came just a bit too early. To us he's been the Marcus Trescothick we know all summer. We feel he's got the character to come through it."

But there are doubts. There have to be. The innings at Galle was a false dawn for Trescothick the tourist. There have been occasional peaks abroad but the figures are still disheartening: at home for England his Test average is 51.66 (and that includes this disappointing summer), away it is 36.20.

When he baled out of India in March he was low, confused and pining for the stability of home and hearth. Nobody outside the inner circle guessed. Maybe it was the gastrointestinal infection he acquired in Baroda that tipped him over the edge but he had certainly had enough. This, do not forget, is the England player who loves the game and playing it more than any of the rest.

Perhaps it should have come as no surprise that he was being treated by Performance Healthcare, the psychologists recruited by the Professional Cricketers' Association two years ago to help members with problems. The PCA chief executive, Richard Bevan, was highly critical that it should have come to this. "The ICC must start doing something about the volume of cricket being played," he said.

Trescothick himself gave more than a hint two years ago in an interview with this reporter on the eve of England's tour of South Africa (where he made two blistering hundreds). "Touring, I do find difficult because you're away living in hotels. At times it gets me down, gets on top of me. To be honest I've always had problems being away from home all my life. From being at school I suffered from really bad homesickness, really struggled to go away."

Somehow, Trescothick has got through it. It gets harder as players get older. Two big things happened in Trescothick's life last year, either side of his most glorious professional days in winning the Ashes.

In April, his wife, Hayley, gave birth to their first child, a daughter. In November, while he was captain of the side during the First Test in Pakistan, his father-in-law fell off a ladder and was seriously injured. Trescothick stayed by his post in Multan. All turned out well, but when Trescothick fell ill in India on the second tour of the winter, all manner of issues will have converged.

He said in that interview before the last South African tour: "If I suddenly feel I can't do it, then I can't do it. I adore playing cricket, I'm not going to give it away easily, you go through periods when it gets really tough." It will never have been tougher than in Brisbane and the four cities which follow this winter. The small town lad deserves to succeed.