Marcus Trescothick interview: Coaching England’s free-spirited stars is reminding me how great touring can be

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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

As the batting coach looking after England’s white-ball team, who face New Zealand in the T20 World Cup semi-final today, Marcus Trescothick reckons he has the best job in the world, even if there are occupational hazards.

“This is a real privileged place to be at the moment,” he tells Standard Sport. “At practise, you see things that you’ve never seen before, the way these guys hit the ball.”

Trescothick recalls a training session in the UAE a couple of weeks ago. “It was an open net for middle practise, and a very good surface,” he says. “It was honestly like a golf driving range. Balls just being whacked over our heads, raining down. Jason Roy hit two onto the roof of the building in 10 minutes, lost.

“Throwing these balls, you’ve got to have your wits about you. You are sweating, soaking wet, and it comes firing back flat, so you’ve got to grab it or get out the way!”

This is not any old coach speaking. It is Trescothick, one of the few batters who played before the current crop with a claim to making England’s all-time white-ball XI.

“I am amazed sometimes how talented they are, how free-spirited and clear-minded they are going into games,” he says. "That takes time to build. I had times when I just felt I could whack every ball for four. That’s pretty much every game for these boys.”

England opener Jos Buttler celebrates his century at Sharjah during the T20 World Cup (Getty Images)
England opener Jos Buttler celebrates his century at Sharjah during the T20 World Cup (Getty Images)

You might have noticed something. The very fact that this article is being written, that Trescothick is speaking in Dubai, means he is on tour.

It was crippling anxiety about touring that meant the last of his 202 games for England came at the age of just 30, 15 years ago. He played on for Somerset into his forties, but his last match abroad was a decade earlier, in the T20 Champions League in India, a tournament he left early after a relapse.

Trescothick wrote about the subject in his seminal book, Coming Back To Me, which opens with a moving passage about breaking down at Dixon’s in Heathrow Terminal 3, before a flight to Dubai in 2008. No cricket book, or individual, has played a greater role in lifting the taboo around mental health in sport.

Trescothick’s return to touring has been taken one step at a time. First he went to Desert Springs in Spain with the Tom Maynard Trust and Somerset. “At first it was three days, then a week, then two weeks, just gradually building up, gaining more confidence, putting more building blocks in place,” he explains. In early 2020, he went to South Africa for a T20 series with England and was away for a fortnight. Twelve months ago he toured South Africa again, for longer.

“It’s been a process over the last five years. I gradually got a better understanding of my own health, ways to manage it, with medication, processes,” he says.

You don’t have the lonely times. You’re not in the spotlight.

“Before I took the job with England this year, I discussed it at length with Chris [Silverwood], Mo [Bobat] and Ashley [Giles], who knows my situation inside out. They know I am not ready to do three months away. I like this length, four to six weeks. I don’t want to be away from my family for too much longer than that. But I want to build it up so I can do longer tours, because eventually I want to become a Head Coach myself. And I want to do more, because I enjoy it.

“You’re reminded of how great touring life can be, the good parts I really enjoyed as a young man. It’s very different as a coach. The stresses and strains, the ups and downs that come with playing are not there, although there is a lot of pressure in coaching to keep the players playing well. You don’t have the lonely times when you’re thinking about how you are going to perform, the pressure and scrutiny. You’re not in the spotlight, you’re a bit more under the radar.”

Two things have made it easier, Trescothick believes. His children are older – Ellie is 16 and Millie is 13 – and “less dependent on me being around”. The other is technology.

“If you think of the 15 years between when I finished and now, the FaceTime calls and the ability to contact each other every day makes a huge difference,” he says. “You can see them, see what they are up to back home. When I finished video calls were only just starting.”

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The pandemic, however, is a complicating factor. Before he flew to the UAE, Trescothick contracted Covid-19. He was not “too ill”, but could not shake it. “I was still testing positive a week after my 10 days of isolation had ended,” he says. “So I couldn’t travel with the team to Oman and enter the bubble”. The upshot was that he had to fly independently, to Abu Dhabi, and enter into six days’ quarantine.

"That was my first experience of hard quarantine in a hotel room,” he says. "It was dull, there isn’t much to be excited about. But I soon worked out a rhythm. It went ok, and gives me more confidence that I can do this.”

Trescothick, you sense, might just be the perfect coach for England in the era of players being battered by bubbles, which he believes are “unsustainable”.

“With issues away from cricket, if you just want to chew the fat because you need to express your feelings, or get something off your chest, I’m very aware of keeping my eye on people, keeping on top of those issues,” he says.

“We have people on board, trained up for this, but with my own experiences I have an advantage of knowing what it’s like, seeing how it manifests, and I’m always aware and trying to keep on top of it so we don’t have any more problems.

“It’s looked upon in such a different way now in comparison, because it wasn’t talked about in the same way and it wasn’t expected to happen. We know now from all the cases in the last 20 years that it is going to happen, so we have to be proactive.”

Whether Eoin Morgan’s men win the T20 World Cup or not, there is certainly something for English cricket to celebrate in the UAE.

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