July 2006

The West Country boy

David Foot
David Foot on Marcus Trescothick, the West Country boy

"His affection for Somerset remains as evident as ever" © Getty Images

Marcus Trescothick belongs intrinsically to the West Country - the clue is not just in his name or the occasional vowel but above all in the defining strands of his temperament. He is sparing in visible emotions, reassuringly Mendip-solid in the challenging way he stands upright at the crease, never cowed by bellicose bowlers' reputations.

He is no more fazed than Drake on the Hoe when once there was an Armada to fi ght. Horace Batchelor, the publicity-conscious pools forecaster, was Keynsham's most famous resident. That was until Tresco came long.

Those with strong geographical allegiance may argue that to some degree he has been unjustly by-passed for the highest accolade of Test captaincy. He showed he could lead as a schoolboy, for England Under-19, and then as a caretaker skipper in place of Jamie Cox for Somerset and the injured Michael Vaughan for England. Maybe he has less of the bravura and extrovert appeal than Andrew Flintoff, less of the flamboyance and certainly fewer tonsorial permutations than Kevin Pietersen.

Yet does he really need such accessories of responsibility and recognition? The undeniable qualities he shows on the field, and those as a team man he reveals in the dressing room, are more subdued than for instance those of Flintoff . The face and demeanour are more serious. He does not waste words on small talk. The once carefree, chubby-cheeked antics have mostly receded forever.

Like his Cornish forebears he is inclined to be stubborn. He does not want unqualified people telling him how to play and says that, whatever critics occasionally claimed was his reluctant foot movement, he has not changed his technique very much at all. He used to walk out to bat with Mark Lathwell for Somerset: "Mark was such a natural player. He may have done a few things wrong technically but it worked for him." Likewise Marcus, he implies.

Trescothick comes from a close-knit family, with parents in the clothing business. His dad Martyn, a centurymaker and captain of Keynsham, was around when Marcus scored his fi rst hundred as an 11-year-old. "He was in his 90s and, as I walked the boundary, I pleaded loudly with him to get them in singles." Father and son were later to play in the same club side in competitive Western League matches. Marcus remembers: "Dad was prepared to shield me a little from the faster bowlers when I was only 14." Such paternal protection was not needed for long. Mum Lin helped with the teams' teas for 35 years. Cricket was an obsession.

The same devotion some teenagers with a musical bent bestow on their violins Trescothick extended to cricket bats, transfixed by their elegance and linseed smell. His parents had given him his first bat when he was two. As a Somerset junior he prowled the home dressing room, picking up the range of bats, comparing the grain, the balance, the weight. "I simply hated the thought that some might be thrown away." He was seen by some of his team-mates as a bit of a bat doctor, as he carried out superficial repairs. "Just give me some sandpaper, glue and a Stanley knife," he used to say.

His Test record alone makes him Somerset's greatest native batsman. From the West Country boy's quiet, unsophisticated manner is emerging a more confident and articulate worldclass cricketer. He plays golf and, when here in the winter, watches Bristol City as an honorary vice-president. The first time I interviewed him at his home, well before Test match selection, he confessed how much he was enjoying the new experience of staying in hotels with his county team. And he said he would never become cynical about the game, a spontaneous and refreshing observation. His affection for Somerset - however limited his appearances these days - remains as evident as ever.

He will hope to finish his career as their captain.

This article was first published in the July issue of The Wisden Cricketer.
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David Foot has followed Somerset cricket for more than 50 years. He writes on cricket for The Guardian