Trescothick steps into the cauldron of Test captaincy

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The Independent Online

Marcus Trescothick has always wanted to captain England and until the 2003 World Cup it appeared he was destined to fulfil this goal.

Marcus Trescothick has always wanted to captain England and until the 2003 World Cup it appeared he was destined to fulfil this goal.

Before the tournament Nasser Hussain and Duncan Fletcher, the England captain and coach, had eulogised over the Somerset opener whenever they were asked to comment on his qualities. At that stage Michael Vaughan was not in the frame. Trescothick had led England in a couple of one-day internationals and was the man who took charge during practice games on tours when Hussain wanted a rest.

It was during England's winter tour of Australia in 2002-03 that Trescothick fell down the pecking order, but this became apparent only during the World Cup, when Alec Stewart was asked to stand in for Hussain after injury forced him to withdraw from a qualifying match.

This decision came as a major setback to the left-hander and his fate was sealed by the events of the match. England beat Namibia by 55 runs, but there was a major misunderstanding over the Duckworth-Lewis system, which is used to adjudicate the winner of a rain-affected game. Trescothick was placed in charge of the crib-sheet by Stewart and allegedly misread it. The rain failed to arrive but there were several occasions when England were behind the rate. Stewart was not aware of this until he attended the press conference at the end of the game.

From then on it became inevitable that Vaughan would take over when Hussain had had enough. Trescothick took this disappointment in his stride and, to his credit, has never shown any bitterness about the decision.

Trescothick still has a major role to play and is the England player Vaughan turns to most for advice in the field. He also sets a wonderful example to the younger players with his work ethic and devotion to the team.

It was a combination of Trescothick's loss of form in Australia and the realisation that he was not a natural leader which changed the view of Fletcher and co. Vaughan's tenure started slowly but during England's winter tours of Asia and the Caribbean he has moulded this side into his own and become the source of great inspiration.

This has left Trescothick in the shade but after yesterday's injury to Vaughan he looks set to lead England for the first time in a Test on Thursday. Should this turn out to be the only occasion on which he leads his country he could not have found a better stage than Lord's, the home of cricket.

As substitute captain, Trescothick will not try to change the structure Vaughan has put in place ­ he will not be allowed to, but it is also not his style and Trescothick will not see this as an opportunity to prove to people that he should have been given the job.

According to his Somerset team-mates, Trescothick's style of captaincy lies somewhere between those of Hussain and Vaughan. Outwardly, the 29-year-old looks calm and laid-back but they say he is not afraid to give a player a verbal rollicking should they step out of line.

In Stephen Fleming, the New Zealand captain, Trescothick is up against one of the best leaders in the world. And, unfortunately, having such a talented opponent may expose his limitations.

As his England career evolves, Trescothick seems to be coming more and more absorbed in the game. He finds it hard to leave his batting alone and one cannot help but feel that this constant tinkering is one of the reasons for his problems. Somewhere along the line he needs to decide what type of batsman he is and stick to it.

At his best, the left-hander is one of the most destructive players in the world. When in full flow he is almost impossible to bowl at and many of the best bowlers in the world have been on the wrong end of a battering from his broad Gunn and Moore bat.

Trescothick is particularly severe on spinners, and several of his most memorable performances have come against the slow bowlers, whom he nonchalantly flicks over the leg-side boundary for six.

His weakness, though, is against fast bowling and this was exposed in Australia, when Brett Lee roughed him up on a couple of occasions, and in the Caribbean, where he failed to cope with the pace of Fidel Edwards and Tino Best.

Though it is easy to be pick faults in Trescothick's leaden footwork, which is the main cause of his problems, it is impossible to criticise his attention to detail. Seldom a day passes without him working at some aspect of his game.

Indeed, despite being told to rest during Somerset's recent match against Durham, he was the first to be found at the ground each morning practising in the nets.