Trescothick's career in ruins after stress forces pull-out

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Marcus Trescothick's England career appears to be over following his surprise withdrawal from the Ashes yesterday. Trescothick flew home from Australia at the conclusion of yesterday's practice match against New South Wales with a recurrence of the "stress-related illness" that prevented him playing a full part in England's cricket in 2006. He will take no part in the Ashes, which begin in Brisbane in just nine days' time.

Trescothick's return is a massive blow to England, who would have been looking for their most experienced batsman to take on Australia's fast bowlers. The responsibility of getting England off to a bright start now falls to Alastair Cook, as Andrew Flintoff's side attempt to retain the Ashes without one of the most popular and highly respected members of their squad.

"Following discussions between Marcus and the England medical staff, it was decided that Marcus should fly home at the earliest opportunity," said Duncan Fletcher, the England coach.

"We are naturally disappointed to lose a player of his quality from our Ashes squad and everyone in the dressing room hopes that he is able to make a full recovery and resume his cricketing career." Whether that career involves playing for England again must now be in real doubt. Trescothick had scored just 10 runs in two innings in Australia, but there had been no overt signs that he was struggling with being away from home. Last week he said he was "fit and raring to go". The opener admitted it was part of an "ongoing process" but finished by saying that it was "such a good feeling to know that you have come through it".

It is not the first time that Trescothick has returned home early from an England tour, and a reluctance to admit the full extent of his condition has not helped. In February this year he left India in tears, asking for privacy and citing personal reasons. Yet in April, when saying he was fit to take his place in the England side, the explanation changed to a virus and fatigue caused by playing six years of international cricket.

A hundred in his return match against Sri Lanka suggested everything was hunky-dory but he averaged 19.7 in the six remaining Tests. Then, on the eve of England's winter tour announcements, the 30-year-old informed the selectors that, on medical advice, he was not available to play in the Champions Trophy in India. It was here where he admitted to a "stress-related illness", stating that he had been advised not to cut short a course of treatment that was expected to get him right for Australia.

Despite these worrying events, the selectors, somewhat naïvely, believed that Trescothick would be fit to complete the most challenging tour. The loyalty shown by the selectors - and the England and Wales Cricket Board who offered him a £175,000 contract - is commendable, but it is baffling, and worrying, to think they truly believed a player with recent mental problems had any chance of coming through an experience like Australia. Selecting Trescothick was always going to be a risk. At best the decision of David Graveney, Geoff Miller and Fletcher was optimistic, at worst fanciful. England should be able to cope with his absence but his departure is bound to be the talk of the dressing room in a week when they need to concentrate solely on the first Test.

Trescothick has been reluctant to explain why he has developed a condition that appears to make touring intolerable, but it is believed to be the result of personal guilt. Trescothick is obsessive about his cricket, to the extent where it has had a detrimental effect on family life with his wife and daughter. This guilt surfaced when he came home from England's tour of Pakistan - his father-in-law hurt himself when he fell from a ladder while he was on tour - and he is struggling to cope with the prospect of leaving his family.

Sympathy extends towards Trescothick; he is a likeable man and anyone who knows him will wish for a speedy recovery. But his predicament does not lend itself to the lifestyle of an international cricketer, who spends at least four months each year away from home. And this is why it is difficult to see him playing for England again. The lucrative contract may tempt the selectors to pick him next summer, but is there any future in playing someone who is incapable of touring?