Somerset braced for Operation Tresco
The lengths to which Somerset are going to ensure that Marcus Trescothick, who might yet finish the season with 2,000 first-class runs, takes part in the Champions League in India next month are reminiscent of the travelling schedule that Arsenal organised on behalf of Dennis Bergkamp. The worth of that great Dutch footballer to his club was such that they permitted him to journey around Europe on his own by train. The fact that this took a great deal longer than flying to the destination was of no consequence. Next month, the batsman who is the non-pareil in county cricket is likely to be escorted through Heathrow by his Director of Cricket or the second XI coach to help him onto the plane.
Underscoring both these arrangements is the belief that Trescothick, who suffers from a stress-related illness, has to be given all the assistance he requires. Such flexibility is wholly lacking in the outlook of the England selectors, who have made it clear to Somerset that if Trescothick was to play for his country again, he would have to do so all year round. Contrast that attitude with what his club are doing for him: not only are Brian Rose or Jason Kerr prepared to help him on to his flight, they are encouraging him to treat the tournament as a family holiday. He will be permitted to commute to Hyderabad and Bangalore from the United Emirates, the Seychelles or the Maldives.
"Marcus can take his two children out of school and will bring his extended family out as well," Rose said. "He will not need any therapy out there. But if he does decide not to go, we are not worried. He is so keen to play cricket that he will be back in our indoor nets at Taunton in November. He is always in the nets in the winter. He likes training and being coached." The club are discussing with Trescothick how his holiday accommodation base, within a few flying hours to India, will be funded.
Rose points out that he could have made money out of the IPL over the past two years had he been so inclined. Trescothick has not contemplated travelling abroad since he failed to make the flight to Dubai - ironically where he and his family might be based in October - for Somerset's pre-season trip in March 2008. He has never visited the holiday home he bought close to those owned by Michael Vaughan and Andrew Flintoff in Barbados after winning the Ashes with England in 2005. Rose is all too aware he might have to take Trescothick past the same Dixons store where he collapsed "hunched up, sobbing, distraught," at Heathrow. Better, perhaps, to fly from Bristol.
"I want to stress that there are no guarantees at this stage," said Trescothick this week. "The club are still looking at ways to make it as easy as possible for me to make the trip without risking a recurrence of the problems I have had playing abroad since my illness. The cricketer in me is desperate to go and take on some of the best Twenty20 players in the world, but all I can say for sure at the moment is that I will be monitoring myself as the departure date approaches for any signs that it could rekindle my stress problems."
Playing cricket abroad is not likely to be all that will change in Trescothick's life. He is widely expected to be named as Somerset's new captain, replacing Justin Langer, who has not had a good season with the bat and who has taken the club as far as he is capable of doing as their captain.
Langer is expected to have talks with Middlesex, his old club, about becoming their next coach - a logical move given that he is much admired by Angus Fraser, the director of cricket, and Andrew Strauss, the England captain and Langer's former Middlesex colleague. If Somerset are ever to become county champions, they need a match-winning bowler - and never more so now that Andy Caddick is retiring. They also need to create a more even balance between bat and ball at Taunton, but that is another story.
Langer, despite hinting at retirement on Test Match Special earlier this month, refuses to make any comment or statement to that effect until after the season. This not only deprives the crowd at Taunton the opportunity of showing their appreciation for an admirable cricketer who has done much for the club through his dedication and commitment, but prevents the management from formulating plans for next year. "I was asked an ambiguous question by Jim Maxwell [the TMS commentator]," he said at the County Ground this week, "and I have several things to decide upon, such as my daughters' schooling and putting down roots in Perth."
Somerset are looking to sign Cameron White, their former batsman and a century-maker against England for Australia at the Rose Bowl this week, as their second overseas player. Should they triumph in the Champions League next month, they will spend their prize money not only on signing him but on club facilities and a pre-season trip for 2010. Ensuring Trescothick plays against Deccan Chargers and Trinidad and Tobago is evidently worth every circuitous route they care to make.