Howard Clayton, the long-serving England Under-19 scorer, tells a story about the young Marcus Trescothick that sticks in the mind. Trescothick used to wear his England cap and blazer everywhere while playing for the Under-19 side and was teased for it by his team-mates. "It might be the closest I get to playing for England" was Trescothick's proud response.
Years later, and with 202 senior international matches behind him, an older Trescothick is contemptuous of age-group cricket. "A complete waste of my time," he writes in his autobiography, annoyed that having to play for the Under-19 team in 1994 meant he was 76 first-class runs shy of becoming the youngest Somerset batsman to score 1000 in a county season.
Such things should really not matter - not when you have won the Ashes and people still sigh: "If only Tresco were still playing for England ..." That even now this one tiny record rankles hints at Trescothick's fatal obsession.
Cricketers do tend to be obsessives, as do cricket fans, but Trescothick's neurosis is peerless. It is seen in his refusal to eat any meat except sausages, a trait which lent him the nickname Banger. His fascination with kit, particularly bats, is another obsession. Trescothick says that if he were ever on Desert Island Discs his luxury would be a cricket kit catalogue.
Of course, getting Trescothick on a desert island would be tricky given his homesickness. The depression that afflicted him on England's tours of Pakistan, India and Australia in 2005 and 2006 appears to have been based on obsession. When doubts and homesickness appear, as they can for any sportsman, Trescothick cannot let go. The first show of fear came when travelling on a school outing to Torquay. "I was terrified, irrationally so, and that scared me even more," he writes.
The condition returned heavily in Pakistan in late 2005. Being away from his wife and baby daughter hurt Trescothick and his depression was exacerbated when he visited victims of the Pakistan earthquake. Witnessing children in pain left Trescothick in floods of tears. The first Test, in Multan, could have been a highlight of his career. Made captain after Michael Vaughan's knee injury, Trescothick scored 193 as England built a healthy first-innings lead, but chasing 198 to win they were dismissed for 175, the captain making 5.
Trescothick reveals why his mind was not on the game. On the second evening of the Test his wife rang him in distress after finding her father unconscious outside their house. He had fallen off a ladder and was taken to hospital. Here Trescothick's obsession is apparent. He had installed CCTV at home and could watch the images on his laptop. That night he sits in his hotel room and watches the footage of his father-in-law falling, hitting his head and passing out. Forward and back goes the tape as he watches the images repeatedly.
The next day his wife asks him to come home but Vaughan refuses to release him. The guilt of staying, heightened by a bomb "scare" (just an exploding gas canister), haunts Trescothick, as does his daughter's lack of recognition of him at the end of the tour. Undeniably the pain and anxiety of the Pakistan tour caused his breakdown in India a couple of months later.
Of the 20 chapters in this autobiography, half deal with his illness, his counselling, his attempted comebacks, why he lied in the set-up confessional with Ian Ward on Sky, and the false rumours about his marriage. This, sadly, is what we want to know, more than his experience of the 2005 Ashes or any of his feats with Somerset.
It is a shame, because some of the cricketing stories are fascinating, particularly how Trescothick almost manipulated a run-chase of 612 for Somerset 2nd XI against Warwickshire, run out for 322 with victory seven runs away. But in these celebrity-focused days it is the mental frailties of our heroes that we need to read about in minute detail. Obsession is a weakness of us all.
Marcus Trescothick: Coming Back To Me
with Peter Hayter
This article was first published in the September 2008 issue of the Wisden Cricketer. Subscribe here