West Indies v England, 3rd Test, Bridgetown, 1st day May 1, 2015

Trott suffers moment of defeat

This was Jonathan Trott's lowest moment. The moment when the truth could no longer be concealed. The moment when hope vanished for his international future

It is clear this is the end for Jonathan Trott in international cricket © Getty Images

Professional sport can be a cruel beast. It sucks you in with whispered promises of glory and glamour and spits you out disillusioned, with broken dreams and an aching body. For every cricket career that ends with a raised bat, you can name many more that end on a physio's bench or with an awkward conversation in a coach's office.

So it is with Jonathan Trott. Recalled for this tour with hopes that he could put his struggles behind him, it has become clear that there is to be no happy ending to his story. This is the end.

It was not just his dismissal here - his third duck in five innings since his recall - but the manner of it. Shuffling down the pitch to Shannon Gabriel, he was in no position to play the short ball that came his way - the short ball against which he has had questions to answer. The involuntary flinch in to the leg side was not the stroke of a man who can open the batting for England in the Ashes. It would be irresponsible to pick him to face Mitchell Johnson and co now.

It has been painful to witness Trott's decline. When he first played Test cricket, he spoke of the experience as "the most fun I've ever had" and made it look as if, to him, batting was the most natural thing in the world. At his best - with the century at Melbourne or the century against Pakistan at Lord's - he looked a masterful player with a calm temperament and uncomplicated technique. He is one of very few England players to win the ICC player of the year award. He has served his country with distinction.

But somewhere on the journey it stopped being fun. Somewhere it became a burden. Somewhere, perhaps due to weariness, perhaps due to illness, perhaps due to some technical fault, it became awkward and exhausting. Now batting looks a desperate battle for survival. And the more Trott struggles to understand why this game that used to come to him so easily has suddenly become so complicated, the further he sinks into the mire of too much thought, too much practice and too much analysis. There have been times on this tour when he has been in the nets as early as 7.30am.

It was an ugly dismissal for Jonathan Trott © AFP

He is almost unrecognisable from the batsman he used to be. While he used to wait for the ball, a beacon of calm and reassurance, now he shuffles forward, head moving at the time it should be still, his eyes frantic, his anxiety bending him out of shape mentally and physically. Some of those closest to him - and he has family at this match - have considered throwing in the towel for a while.

The last year or two have been agony. A relatively simple man, developed in the uncomplicated world of male changing rooms and defined by his love of cricket and his success as a batsman, Trott has been at a loss to understand what has been happening to him. He has been hurt by criticism and suffered for the public nature of his struggles. He has talked of finding the game "degrading". He talked of his struggles against the short ball as defining him as a man. And, as he lies in his hotel room tonight, it will be the fear that he has let down his team - and, most of all, the captain that fought for his recall - that gnaws the deepest.

He may yet have a job to do for England in the second innings. But it is hard to see any circumstance in which he can produce the sort of innings that would justify selection at the top of the order for the Ashes series. This is a salvage operation now.

The England management will take some flak for their recall of Trott. And there is no denying that is an experiment that has not worked. But he had ticked every box; answered every question; cleared every hurdle ahead of this tour. He plundered runs in county cricket - sometimes against good attacks - and he struck a double century on the Lions tour. He was analysed by doctors and coaches and psychologists. He seemed fine and why wouldn't England want a man back in the side who, for a good portion of his career, averaged in excess of 50 in both ODI and Test cricket? It was not an unreasonable call. Indeed, in other circumstances, England might be applauded for their treatment of Trott.

It would be a shame if it is this Trott - the broken Trott - that lingers in the memory. Hopefully, in time, it will be the Trott of old that sticks in the mind.

Hindsight, of course, is T20. And, in retrospect, it is hard to refute the argument that Adam Lyth should have been selected for this match, at least. But the logic of persisting with Trott for the series was to ensure they had a thorough look at him; to ensure he batted without the constant threat of the axe. The logic was sound and Trott can have no complaints.

It means that Lyth is likely to make his debut against an excellent New Zealand attack in relatively early-season England. That's not ideal. But he will do so secure in the knowledge that he will be given a fair run in the team. He won't be the first or last to serve an apprenticeship.

Might Trott's comeback have been different had it been made in the middle-order? Probably not. The technical problems on display now are the product of temperamental issues. At his best, he was more than capable of seeing off the new ball. Besides, there was simply no position available in the middle-order. Nobody could expect Joe Root, Gary Ballance or Ian Bell to be moved.

It would be a shame if it is this Trott - the broken Trott - that lingers in the memory. Hopefully, in time, it will be the Trott of old that sticks in the mind. Hopefully, it will be those flicks off the legs and those sweetly-timed drives through cover. It was nice, just for a moment, to see a big beaming smile as he reached that half-century in Grenada. An encore at the end of a fine performance.

And hopefully, in time, it will be those memories that linger in his mind. He may yet have a few years of prolific run-scoring in county cricket ahead of him. Years where he is comfortable and happy and the anxiety no longer pierces. For a while it may be that everything cricket related - the sight of his bat, driving past grounds, his awards and kit - cause him pain.

As a cricketer this will be his lowest moment. The moment when the truth could no longer be concealed. The moment when hope vanished. The moment of defeat.

But as a man? To suffer situational anxiety and still willingly enter that situation, to fear failure but go into a position where it was possible, to face fears, confront demons and take risks. There is something heroic in that. Maybe, just maybe, as a man, this has been his finest moment.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments