Marcus Trescothick exclusive interview: My 17-year road back to Pakistan

Marcus Trescothick stood in for Michael Vaughan as captain during the first Test in Multan - Mike Finn-Kelcey/Reuters
Marcus Trescothick stood in for Michael Vaughan as captain during the first Test in Multan - Mike Finn-Kelcey/Reuters

Three members of England’s party in Pakistan were on the side's Test tour of the country in 2005: Marcus Trescothick and Paul Collingwood, now assistant coaches, and James Anderson, an unused youngster turned veteran attack leader.

It has been a long journey back to Pakistan for all of English cricket, but perhaps no one more than Trescothick. It was his tumultuous trip in 2005 that sparked, according to his seminal book Coming Back To Me, “a sequence of events spanning from then until 14 March 2008 that culminated in my retirement from international cricket” due to mental health issues. On that tour, he played his last overseas Test and ODI. He would not complete a cricket-related trip abroad for a decade afterwards.

Pakistan in 2005 was England’s first tour since winning the Ashes for the first time in 18 years, and all the hype and hoopla that came with that. For Trescothick, nearing 30 and one of the best batsmen in the world, it was also his first tour as a father. In so many ways life was good and, with Michael Vaughan injured, he led England in the first Test in Multan. He performed superbly, scoring a brilliant century to set up a chunky first-innings lead.

However, on the second evening of the match, when he was 135 not out, his tour was turned upside down by conversations with his wife, Hayley. She informed him that her father, John, had suffered a very serious head injury falling from a ladder at their new home in Somerset. He was promptly taken into intensive care.

Trescothick batted on to 193, having made initial enquiries with management about travelling home. But on the third evening, the story took another twist. Doctors were keen to learn more about the nature of John’s fall and, by happy – or not – coincidence, Trescothick’s new home had CCTV technology that he was able to watch from his laptop. That evening, he dutifully sat down for what his book describes as the “agonising process” of watching John’s fall in slow motion. “It was like I had just driven past a car crash,” he wrote.

Trescothick scored a brilliant 193 in the first Test in Multan as England narrowly lost - Stu Forster/Getty Images
Trescothick scored a brilliant 193 in the first Test in Multan as England narrowly lost - Stu Forster/Getty Images
Marcus Trescothick - Stu Forster /Getty Images
Marcus Trescothick - Stu Forster /Getty Images

The following morning, when they next spoke, Hayley asked him to come home for the first time. While initially thinking he had to stay (England went on to lose a tight first Test), he did make more enquiries about returning, only to ultimately decide to remain in Pakistan.

While England’s series finished meekly in Lahore and Trescothick could not hit the heights of Multan, the tour remained eventful. He was batting in Faisalabad when a gas canister at the local Pepsi factory exploded, with everyone – him included – believing it was a bomb. “The single most terrifying incident I have experienced on a cricket field,” he recalled. With all players distracted, Trescothick was the first to realise that Shahid Afridi had performed a pirouette on the pitch to rough it up.

While John pulled through, things hardly improved at home. Just before the ODI series – which he was again captain for – he declined to return again after Hayley’s grandfather died. When he finally did get back, just before Christmas, his eight-month-old daughter did not recognise him. In the book, he describes the intense guilt he felt about his decision to stay, and it is one he still regrets to this day.

“I should have gone home, and if something happened now I would,” he tells Telegraph Sport, 17 years on. "That would have been the right thing to do. I sacrificed what was going on at home for me playing. I had got a big hundred, was captain, and at the time, cricket was everything. The journey over the last 17 years has taught me that that is not the case. I learnt so much from that.

“I think now everyone in the environment would recognise that the right thing would be to go back home, to be there and support a family going through something like that.”

“What makes a difference is how aware of the time away they are. Because of my situation and others that have had similar issues, coaches as much as players need that break in between. We can’t just roll from one tour to another because it’s not manageable.”

Trescothick attempted tours of India and Australia with England, and Dubai with Somerset, over the next couple of years, but was gripped by depression that prevented each one. How much that was rooted by events in Pakistan is impossible to say, but he draws the link in his book.

It is, therefore, very special that Trescothick is back in Pakistan – healthy, and happy to be there. He has taken his return to touring step by step. In 2015, while still playing, he went to Desert Springs in Spain with Somerset for a few days. With England, he has been touring since early 2020. First to South Africa, then the UAE, Caribbean and now Pakistan. At the moment, he is comfortable with tours of around six weeks, but thinks that will become longer, and he has overcome significant hurdles such as mandatory quarantine in Covid times.

Trescothick and James Anderson - Gareth Copley /Getty Images
Trescothick and James Anderson - Gareth Copley /Getty Images

“Pakistan is another part of my journey, the next stage for me back on tour,” he says. “I have done plenty of trips already, and this is another step to tick off and get back on track with. I have remembered again how fun touring life can be.

“I have grown and understand how to manage myself. It’s still difficult with my kids [who are now 17 and 14], but we are all older and wiser and know how to manage it.”

As well as authorities being more enlightened – this year, England split their coaching groups, so Trescothick now only works with the Test team – a huge change is in communication.

“It is so different now,” he says. “I remember trying to link up computers down in the business centre of the hotel, to try to get WiFi to do a single video call. It was so hard, and you felt so far away.

"Now you can sit in your room, turn your phone on and you speak to the family for as long as you want. We won’t be allowed out of the hotel much in Pakistan, but the boys will all be gaming on the WiFi, there’s a golf simulator.

“Doing one format of the game for a certain period does make a difference, and tours are shorter than when I played. They are a few weeks, with the Ashes an outlier there, that’s longer. But the key for me will always be taking it day by day.”