Trescothick is a case in point April 13, 2006

Cricket's apocalyptic vision

Trescothick's situation - however it may have been presented to the public - highlights cricket's apocalyptic vision.

Marcus Trescothick: a victim of an increasingly dysfunctional existence © Getty Images
Dominic Cork cuts an unlikely figure as the voice of reason. He's always had plenty to say for himself and some of it has occasionally made sense. But hammer and nail were in perfect harmony when he said that Marcus Trescothick's "virus" explanation for his sharp exit in India did not quite add up.

Cork has a bit of previous in this department. In 1996-97 he withdrew from England's tour to Zimbabwe to sort out his troubled personal life. At the time he was one of England's more high-profile players. He was garrulous, energetic and controversial. And even though the England team were at one of their lower ebbs, Cork's marriage break-up was still solid tabloid fodder.

Trescothick is the antithesis of Cork. He is a high-achieving, under-rated, low-profile player in a high-profile, successful team. It was no surprise that he had no inclination to disclose the reasons for his shock return from India. But it was pretty astonishing that Fleet Street's infamous rottweilers could not get their teeth stuck into any tasty morsels. There was the odd bit of speculation in the immediate aftermath but once Andrew Flintoff had taken over the captaincy journalists covering the tour ignored the Trescothick story.

It was clear that he could not keep his own counsel forever. But Trescothick's televised revelation raised more questions than it answered. If the real reason was so relatively mundane as an illness why had there been so much secrecy? Why was the initial explanation given as "personal reasons"? Why was Trescothick's exit so unexpected, sudden and untimely (just before the first Test)?

Now that Trescothick has broken cover, many British newspapers may feel he is 'fair game' and start trying to delve a bit deeper. Time will tell.

One can argue that the real reason for Trescothick's departure is irrelevant. It is painfully apparent that he has suffered burn-out, whether it be mental or physical or both. His comments about needing a break did ring true. He's not the first international cricketer to highlight the issue and he certainly will not be the last.

Trescothick has been a mainstay of England's side in both forms of the game for almost six years. He says he has played non-stop since then and he's about right. By my reckoning, he has played roughly 100 days' cricket a year in that time. That might not sound a lot but that is only match time. It doesn't take into account the practice days or the travelling or the amount of nights spent away from home watching Only Fools and Horses on DVD.

The same, very rough calculation shows Adam Gilchrist playing roughly 10 fewer days a year than Trescothick over the same six-year period. And remember too that Gilchrist rarely has to play much between May and September, unlike England players.

There are players out there who sometimes give the impression that they don't actually like playing cricket very much. Trescothick is not one of them. He lives for cricket. He does not love the game so much as eat it.

He is England's best player of spin and was rightly regarded as a vital component for their sub-continental winter. Yet away from home he averages only 36, compared to 56 in England. He tends to start series well and then fade. Eleven of his 13 Test hundreds have been scored in the first two Tests of a series.

International cricket is an increasingly dysfunctional existence. It might have seemed perfectly normal 40 or 50 years ago for men to spend large periods of time apart from their families. Now it is just seems unnatural. Tours might be shorter these days but that just means they are more homogenous.

As the game has become more professional and the players more accountable for their performances so the idea of missing series or tours has become less acceptable. It used to be the norm. It is relatively common for older players to choose between Tests and one-dayers. More players will do that, many may simply retire earlier now that their earning power has increased.

People have been predicting cricket's meltdown for years. The match-fixing scandal seemed to be the wake-up call. When there are series like the 2005 Ashes one wonders what the fuss is about. The game seems in the rudest health. But then there is England's protracted one-day series in India where both teams are missing leading players and at Jamshedpur neither first-choice captain played. Or Australia's Test in Bangladesh a matter of days after finishing a series in South Africa. It is too easy to blame the ICC for the overload because, to an extent, the players are complicit. They want to earn more and play less.

But Trescothick's situation - however it may have been presented to the public - highlights cricket's apocalyptic vision. For great games you need great players, sharp of mind and body. Otherwise you have a sham. And then you might as well give old Corky a game.

John Stern is editor of The Wisden Cricketer