Updated: Feb 19
Rarely has a cricket autobiography enthralled me as much as Marcus Trescothicks, a man who's career had plenty of ups, and a fair few downs as well. As one of my favourite players of all time, this book was a refreshing insight into his life and a wildly sobering read on the pains he experienced with his mental health.
If you're looking for a gentle intro to the book, you won't find it here. The first chapter covers Marcus's international retirement, following a recurrence of his mental health illness during a pre-season tour with Somerset to Dubai. Marcus never made it as far as Dubai, as he openly narrates his struggles which resulted in him breaking down in a Dixons shop at the airport.
What followed was a frank realisation that he had to take charge, controlling his circumstances. Unfortunately for England, this meant a premature retirement from international cricket.
Trescothick always knew he wanted to be a cricketer. From holding his first tiny plastic bat at the age of 11 months to scoring his first senior cricket century as a 14-year-old. When anyone asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he would reply "a cricketer, of course", as if there was an inevitability to his future. Even before signing for Somerset, Marcus had a 4,000 run season to his name.
What's clear throughout is Marcus's love of cricket, and cricket catalogues. He's obsessed with kit! Bats, pads, gloves, anything and everything. He would spend hours pouring over the latest catalogues, and after signing for Somerset he couldn't believe his luck when realising he'd be sent all the kit he needed, absolutely free. Although he may not have felt so lucky when he came to make his first-class debut against Lancashire and Wasim Akram.
It wasn't always easy for Trescothick, he scored just 23 runs in his first 9 innings, and it was only after he was dropped early by Tony Middleton on his 10th appearance that he turned the corner. What followed was 659 runs in his next 10 innings, and away he went.
However soon after 2nd season syndrome was upon him, except his 2nd season syndrome lasted around 4 years. Players had figured out the young opener, he was liable to edging to the slips if the ball was bowled outside off-stump. It wasn't until he worked with batting coach Peter Carlstein in Perth that he started to develop the famous Trescothick patience that he would be later known for. By a slice of good luck, he'd also score a 167 in front of new England coach Duncan Fletcher, while Fletcher was seeing out his season at Glamorgan.
This, along with some good performances for the England A (Lions) team saw him brought into the England set-up at a time where a change of the guard was seen as necessary. Making his test debut, he was almost bowled overcoming down the steps at Lords, as Michael Atherton raced ahead of him. Unbeknown to Marcus, Atherton had a superstition that he had to be on the field ahead of his opening partner. During his test debut, it took Marcus 45 minutes to score his first run, as wickets tumbled around him.
It just so happened that Alec Stewart was making his 100th test appearance on the same day Marcus was making his 1st. Stewart would go on to make a century in that test, with Marcus keeping him company.
Marcus then had to cement his place in the side. He would play in Pakistan through tear gas, and Nasser smashing through a glass door after being given LBW on a very dubious decision. Although Trescothick had come a long way facing pace outside off-stump, he still had a weakness against spin, luckily for him, Duncan Fletcher was a fine coach of batting against spin, and he taught Marcus the forward press which helped him combat some of the toughest spinners in the world, including Muttiah Muralitharan. His first test century would come against Sri Lanka, in the shadows of the Dutch fortress at Galle.
There's a great story around Marcus struggling with the swing of the fearsome Pakistani pace attack. He just couldn't pick up the swing direction. Fortunately for him, he was batting with Michael Atherton who happened to be seeing a beach ball out there, so they devised a plan. Atherton at the non-striker's end would look at how the bowler was holding the ball which indicated the swing direction and would signal this to Trescothick by holding his bat in either his right or left hand. It worked to perfection, unfortunately, Marcus wrote about it in his newspaper column, so the system was short and sweet as bowlers started to hide the ball.
England were looking for an identity for their ODI team and experimented in New Zealand by giving the gloves to Marcus, however despite keeping rather well his batting suffered. He scored just 47 runs in 5 innings, the experiment was over.
Marcus was always a well-respected member of the team. He was often counselled for advice, like when he advised Nasser to bowl first in the 2002-03 ASHES...Australia were 364-2 at the end of the first day, so despite Nasser taking a huge amount of flak (and he still does), he wasn't the only one who thought bowling was a good idea.
Despite Trescothick never being afraid about talking his mind, he was always respectful to his fellow players, which is probably why he took exception to a Shane Warne column which advised England to send Marcus back to Somerset "to learn how to bat", this coming at a time when Marcus had scored 1000 runs in the 2003 season. Following that comment, Trescotchik bagged 132 in his next game and three centuries in International cricket that summer. So much for having to go back to Somerset hey Shane.
I always remember Trescothick as a fine opening test batsman. However, his ODI form was spectacular as well, for a time he held the fastest English ODI century, scoring it in 80 balls against India at Eden Gardens. That record was broken by KP, who would score an ODI century against his native South Africa off just 69 balls.
Trescothick had always experienced homesickness on tour, however, he had managed to largely control it by diving headfirst into his cricket. After he had his daughter Ellie, he returned home from a tour, and he commented on how hard it was to see his daughter who barely recognised him. With this, coupled with his father-in-law having a very serious accident while he was away in Pakistan, his symptoms became harder to ignore.
The pages around his return from India are hard to read. The descent into depression is retold with horrifying detail. You have to remember that this book was published in 2008, and while we've made progress in relation to talking about mental health, it still was a touch taboo at this point. You'd hear people say "He's making tons of money, travelling the world, what's be got to be depressed about". Depression doesn't discriminate in who it hits, and it hit Marcus like a 10-tonne truck. As a huge admirer of the player, it's difficult to read, it's not pleasant, nor should it be. However, it's refreshingly honest.
If you were following cricket at this time, you would have seen the Ian Ward conducted interview where Marcus made up an excuse about having a bug, which resulted in him leaving the tour early, and the media storm that followed. His book covers this in detail, with Marcus having changed his mind about how open he was going to be in that interview at the 11th hour. You can only sympathise with someone who at the time was being controlled by this illness, his anxiety was exacerbated by the thought of talking about his anxiety, a horrible loop that must have seemed unbreakable.
What follows is his battle to try and overcome his condition and make the Ashes tour, followed by his retirement and subsequent return to Somerset and some stability. It's such a superb read and to know that Marcus went on to play a lot more county cricket after the book finishes is a heart-warming end to a sobering and enlightening book.