No fairytale return for Banger
Former England opener Marcus Trescothick yesterday ruled out any chance of a fairytale return to the national team for the crunch Ashes decider at The Oval next week.
Speculation (and perhaps wishful thinking) had been building since England’s calamitous defeat at Headingley, where the shaky middle order of Bopara, Bell and Collingwood imploded, left the series poised at 1-1. When casting the net for replacements, many observers had demanded that Chief Selector Geoff Miller’s first call should be to the Somerset opener, to see if he would reconsider his retirement from international cricket.
Trescothick, who last played for England in the summer of 2006, finally retired from international cricket in 2008 following a battle against a stress related illness, which he candidly described in his 2008 autobiography ‘Coming Back To Me”. Of all the players who have stopped playing for England in the last few years, Trescothick has proved the most irreplaceable. His opening partnership with Andrew Strauss was perhaps the best England have had since the days of Hobbs and Sutcliffe, and his ability to get runs quickly has been sorely missed in all forms of the game.
The clamour for his return has also been fuelled by the fact that he is the leading run scorer in the County Championship being the first to reach 1,000 runs for the season and because he scored a century in each innings for Somerset against Warwickshire during the Headingley Test.
His return seemed to become more of a possibility when Somerset Chief Executive Richard Gould suggested that his county’s star batsman may reconsider his retirement from international cricket if he is told that he does not have to go on tours. Further comments by Justin Langer and Trescothick himself, who earlier in the week said “if they (the selectors) threw questions at me, I would listen”, further fuelled the hopes of England fans longing for his return.
Any hope however was quashed yesterday when Trescothick writing about the possibility of a return in his column for the Bristol Evening Post said that “Of course I thought hard about it. But there will be no England comeback for me in the final Ashes Test. It has been very flattering to see my name mentioned in so many circles since Australia’s crushing win at Headingley and I’d be a liar if I said the prospect of playing at The Oval hadn’t occupied my mind a lot. It gives me a massive kick that I am still thought good enough to come back and play at international level, but I’ve gone too far down the line in battling my stress problems to change my mind about now ending my England career.”
This wasn’t the first time that speculation of a possible return for Trescothick had been mooted. It has emerged that he was approached by Strauss to play in the ICC World Twenty20 this summer, but the caveat was that Trescothick would have to make himself available for winter touring. As touring and being away from home is one of the root causes of his illness, Trescothick was forced to say no.
This raises an important question. Should the selectors make an allowance for Trescothick and make an offer to him to play home internationals only? Understandably, they don’t want to set a precedent that could see other players picking and choosing when and where they will play for England. However, shouldn’t an exception be made here when it is the illness not the personal choice of the player that is involved?
Gould agrees saying “There are not many truly world-class performers and those that are, like Marcus, need to be kept on the pitch for as long as possible. He is absolutely at the top of his game, still one of the best batsmen in the world with an unabated hunger for runs.
“Before he retired — for medical reasons, not because he was picking and choosing — he was looking to play for England until his mid-thirties and his form in Test cricket was unaffected when he pulled out of the tour to India in 2005-06.”
There are precedents in other sports. Dennis Bergkamp, the former Arsenal and Holland footballer, was permitted to continue playing despite picking and choosing his matches owing to a fear of flying.
England certainly misses Trescothick. His ability to score runs quickly at the top of the order gave England a similar option to that enjoyed by Australia with Matthew Hayden and South Africa with Graeme Smith. Furthermore, Trescothick had a healthy habit of getting big runs in key matches such as his 219 against South Africa in The Oval Test of 2003, where England needed to win to level the series. His 180 at Johannesburg in 2005 against the same opposition helped set-up a series deciding win. And during the last Ashes series his innings of 90 at Edgbaston, as acknowledged by Justin Langer and Shane Warne, helped wrest the momentum from the Australians.
Sadly it now seems that we will not see Trescothick in an England cap again, which is a great shame. Clearly he has to put his family and his health first. Maybe the selectors should have made the situation easier for him. Perhaps if there wasn’t so much international cricket then his problems would never have surfaced or could have been better managed.
That said it is still a tantalising question for the selectors to ponder. If they made a clear offer to Trescothick that they would only pick him for home matches, and not put pressure on him ever again to tour, would this change his mind?
Until that day, if it ever comes (and wouldn’t it be great if that day was 11.00 next Thursday?), thanks for the memories Banger.
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