Trescothick seeks a way to play away

At home sublime, on tour a struggler. Stephen Brenkley hears the answer

There are two Marcus Trescothicks. The first one has come to spend dashing summers in England, pretty much lord of all he surveys. The second one winters abroad, often in an agonised search for something he has merely misplaced but cannot for the very life of him lay his hands on.

It is as though the moment Trescothick Marcus One wanders through the airport body-check apparatus, a blitz of rays sears through his every fibre and gives life to the weaker Trescothick Marcus Two, a being alike in every way except for a slight change in demeanour and a batsman's raison d'être: runs. The process is not reversed until months later, when he makes the return journey.

The evidence is incontro-vertible. In 28 home Test matches, Trescothick has scored 2,373 runs at an average of 53.93, and in 26 away Tests he has scored 1,609 runs at 32.84. In 42 home one-day internationals he has scored 1,745 runs at 44.74, and in 50 away one-day matches he has scored 1,625 runs at 33.16. Figures can mislead hopelessly, but those do not lie. They do not shout failure, but they reflect indifference.

Trescothick knows it, and somewhat bravely addressed the issue last Thursday evening, minutes before he stepped through into the departure area at Heathrow, probably fearing what the rays might do to him this time. "It's something I have looked at and discussed, these are the sort of things that make the difference between a good player and a great player. If I had the record away that I do at home, then I'd be a very good player. I can't explain it because I'm not sure why it happens. I find touring difficult because you're away from home and in hotels all the time. At times it gets me down, it all gets on top of me.

"I've had problems with being away all my life. I cope with it rather than enjoy it, and it's another thing playing cricket, performing all the time. Maybe I get tired too quickly, maybe my focus gets lost when it comes to my batting. It's all part of the thing I'm trying to understand."

This is not a malady that will strike a sympathetic chord among those who would give their right arm to be in Trescothick's place, playing cricket for England anywhere. But it is all too real.

Trescothick is an affable country boy at heart and by upbringing. Although he might have changed since he so easily bedded down into international cricket - he has slimmed down dramatically, to the extent that these days he looks as though he might be ordering a martini shaken not stirred in some sophisti-cated nightspot rather than preparing to start the combine harvester - he will never be the urbane cosmopolitan.

When he scored his first Test hundred for England, perversely enough in Sri Lanka, the first people to whom he turned were the boys from Keynsham with whom he had played as a lad and who had followed him out to Galle.

To address the weakness, Trescothick has spoken at length to the England coach, Duncan Fletcher, and the team psychologist, Steve Bull. He feels that in the West Indies last year he could see daylight. The Test series was fairly moderate, but he stormed through at the end in the one-dayers. "That was a big improvement, because generally it gets worse and worse as it goes on. I had looked at it before the series and it worked, but now I've got to start playing throughout the whole tour. If I crack it I'll be happy with my game."

So he should be happy with his game. Trescothick has become England's rock. Whatever else has been wrong with the tour of Zimbabwe, something has been missing: Trescothick. Since he was plucked from Somerset because of an injury halfway through the summer of 2000 he seems always to have been there. This is because he has always been there. After his audacious debut at The Oval (a bravura 66 in a losing cause - against Zimbabwe) he appeared in 92 consecutive one-day matches. He has been in 52 of the 55 Test-match teams. No other player comes close in that time.

Having been rested for the contentious Zimbabwean trip, he has been typically conscientious, working for long hours with England's new assistant coach, Matthew Maynard. "I've worked hard on my fitness but I needed to work on my batting as well, to get a little bit clearer in my mind what I'm trying to do. You probably wouldn't be able to notice any difference, but part of it is making sure my feet and head are in the right place. I have never moved my feet in any form of the game, never will, but my weight distribution is vital, getting into the ball and getting back to it. Transferring my weight at the right time."

If he had not had such a poor tour of Australia two winters ago, Trescothick might have been England's captain. His pal and then opening partner Vaughan overtook him. Trescothick, who led the team once to victory when Vaughan was injured last summer, sounded almost relieved that he was not offered the job.

"Glad isn't the right word, though there have been times over the past 18 months when I've been glad I'm not captain," he said. "I think it's a really tough job and I'd have to really think about it if it ever came up. I've spoken to Michael's wife, Nichola, and she's told me what it means and how it has changed things. It wouldn't be a straight yes and it wouldn't be a straight no." The issue might be further complicated one day, because Trescothick's wife, Hayley, is expecting their first child.

He supposes that England will start favourites against South Africa. "If I was them, looking at the time they've had, I'd be sceptical. But it's a huge series and I'd love to win it for another reason. If we do, it will make the series here against Australia next summer bigger still. And people judge us by how well we do against Australia." And then the departure lounge loomed.

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