Somerset captain Marcus Trescothick sat down with journalists at the club’s media day recently to discuss pre-season preparations and his hopes and aspirations for the new season. Jeremy Blackmore was there for The Incider.
“Another season. They roll into one these days,” Marcus Trescothick sits himself down on a comfortable window seat in the Long Room at the County Ground in Taunton and stretches his arms out as he prepares to answer questions from a group of journalists.
This is the veteran – and we’ll come back to that word – batsman’s 23rd season of first-class cricket and his sixth at the helm of the county championship side.
Many of his contemporaries have long since abandoned the demands of the gruelling county season for the comfort of the television studio. Yet in his forthieth year, Trescothick insists age is not a factor and clearly has high expectations of himself over the next five and a half months.
Looking relaxed and tanned in a dark blue Somerset tracksuit, Trescothick mentions the word “enjoyment” several times over the next 15 minutes and a broad grin spreads across his face as he speaks about receiving his new bats ready for the season, something which evokes the same feelings in him that he used to get as a teenager. If it ever really went away, he has clearly rediscovered his love for the game.
Indeed, life is obviously treating the Somerset skipper well. He has just gone on his first pre-season overseas trip in several years, a major achievement and an experience he clearly enjoyed, and is relaxing into the atmosphere being forged in partnership with new Director of Cricket Matt Maynard. The decision to split the captaincy between himself and Alfonso Thomas also seems to have lifted a weight from his shoulders and he speaks warmly about playing T20 cricket last year as a wicket-keeper batsman without the added pressure of leadership.
Last season saw a return to form for Trescothick after the ‘annus horribilis’ that was 2013 when he failed to score a first-class hundred for the first time in an English summer since 1998 and Somerset fought a relegation battle to remain in the top tier of the championship.
How did Trescothick cope during one of the darkest periods of his captaincy?
“During the season where it didn’t go very well, you’re always thinking how am I getting through into the next big score that you want to get? And then I got a big score against Sussex down at Hove [in late April 2014] and made a difference in the game and then it all comes flooding back after that.”
Trescothick’s age was cited by many critics throughout 2013 as the reason behind his lack of form. Were there times that season when he began to doubt himself and let the criticism weigh on his mind?
“You don’t get drawn into what’s going on because you’ve played the game long enough to appreciate it’s going to be up and down at different times,” he reflects, drawing on all his years of experience.
However he accepts that it’s something which older players have to deal with. “You can never get away from it, it’s always going to be there for as long as I’m still playing, my age will obviously be that factor when you don’t play well, when you go through a lean spell, “oh, he’s past it”, many players are producing the goods older than I am now and still doing so, so it’s not an issue.”
This month saw the first competitive game in charge for Matt Maynard as the new Director of Cricket and Trescothick notes that there’s a different atmosphere at the club this year.
“The atmosphere at the club has evolved a little bit, I think you’re trying to get back to the fashion that we had.
“Two or three seasons ago we were aggressive, the energy and confidence was high. You’re trying to get back to that point really.”
Trescothick, who will continue to captain Somerset in the County Championship, warns that changes will take time. “I don’t think you can judge it too much on early season. Time will tell; it’s the obvious thing isn’t it. I don’t think we can get too caught up on it just yet and what has gone on. What’s happened, we’ll put that to bed and try and move forward in a different fashion to what we’ve done.”
We spoke the week after the club’s pre-season training camp in Desert Springs in Spain, Trescothick’s first overseas cricket tour in several years. It was a big step for him, but an experience which clearly brought back many good memories.
“It’s been a good winter. Last week was great,” he says. “It’s the first time I’ve been on a pre-season cricket trip for a number of years. That was a nice feeling to get away, get a bit of sun on the back and do a bit of cricket abroad.
“You forget what it’s all about. I’d forgotten what touring was like. The week I spent reminded me how much I used to enjoy it. Cricket in the morning, golf in the afternoon and go from there really, so I really enjoyed it.”
Trescothick prepared quietly by going out to Spain for two days the week before the training camp while Maynard was there with the Tom Maynard Trust.
“I went out there for two days. Me and Alfonso went out there together. He went out for four days. I just went out to have a look at the place, to get a feel for what it was all about, knowing then the following week we had the pre-season trip. It went brilliantly, I couldn’t ask for more.”
The captain’s verdict was that the camp was extremely valuable for the squad.
“It’s great that you get the extra preparation time. Already you’ve had a week out on grass. You come back here and you’re a week ahead of where you need to be already.
“It doesn’t make it any easier necessarily that you come back here and it’ll fly, but I think it gives you that extra little bit of confidence that you need to know that you’re generally moving in the right direction.”
There was much conjecture over the winter whether there may be changes to the captaincy in one-day cricket in 2015 and Trescothick confirms it was a topic he gave a lot of thought to.
“Matt asked me when he came in: “what do you want to do with the captaincy” and I was umming and ahhing. In recent times I’ve been like: ‘this is what I want to do, I want to do everything full time’.”
But he admitted that he had started to feel differently after the past two years.
“I just wanted a bit of a rest from it,” he explains. “I found it quite demanding over the last probably two seasons, working at your own game and trying to get the team in order. Whether that’s partly because of how the team’s operated in terms of performances – we haven’t been as good – it makes it more challenging for a skipper.”
Last summer Trescothick stood down from the T20 captaincy after a poor run of form, despite his prolific scoring in the championship, with Thomas taking over the reins. He came back into the side temporarily as keeper-batsman following Craig Kieswetter’s horrific eye injury.
He explains that it was those T20 games with the gloves that ultimately led him to decide to give up the one-day captaincy.
“It made me really realise when I kept wicket in those few games, I really enjoyed it, the buzz of actually playing the game was back, like when you’re a kid.
“That’s what really led me down that road to saying I need a bit of a rest from this and move away. It’s tricky to move away altogether with players that we’ve got. For Alfonso to be championship captain, for example, would have been quite tricky when you’re trying to rest bowlers and so on.”
Maynard has been careful going into 2015 not to make any boasts about bringing silverware to Taunton in his first year, although he has said he expects his charges to be competitive in all three competitions. Is it wise to go into the season in understated fashion, fly under the wire and maybe surprise your opponents?
“We’ve done it both ways,” notes Trescothick, ruefully. “Both have been successful, both have been unsuccessful. I don’t think there’s any real right way. What matters at the end of the day are your performances. If you get that right, it looks after itself.”
He talks of his hopes that having an overseas spinner of Abdur Rehman’s calibre will help Somerset win matches in the fourth innings. The club has found it difficult, particularly in the second half of last season, to bowl sides out twice.
“Whether that’s the pitches, whether that’s a bit more experience in the team, we don’t know,” he says. “When you bring in the calibre of overseas that we have done this season it’s going to give you a better chance. When you watch someone like Warwickshire, where Jeetan Patel controlled the game when he played against us, it’s going to help us.”
The off season saw the departures of two quality batsmen with international experience in Nick Compton and Alviro Petersen, as well as news that Kieswetter is likely to miss the whole summer while he recuperates from his injury. Does that put more pressure on Trescothick as the most experienced batsman in the side?
“I wouldn’t say so right at this minute, no,” he says. “That changes throughout the season when people are in form, out of form, you get spells when you’re relied on because you’re the man in form at different times.
“But personally I’ve carried that burden for a number of years anyway. I expect it of myself that I’ve got to be the leading run scorer. I expect that over the course of the season to try to be that for the whole of the country. Not just in our own team. You expect yourself to do well. You’ve got to live up to that.”
He accepts though that after a disappointing year in white ball cricket that he is under pressure to justify his place, now that he is no longer captain in that form of the game.
“I’ve got to step up and perform better than I have done,” he acknowledges.
One thing that seems as far away as ever is retirement. He will celebrate his 40th birthday on Christmas Day this year and will take stock.
“40 was my target; that was what I wanted to get to and then I said I would reassess at that point. As long as I’m still enjoying it and good enough to match up to the team and it’s up to the club at that point.”
He has though made a move towards establishing a career after cricket by joining the coaching team at Taunton School this month as Cricket Development Coach in addition to his media commitments.
Working with younger players such as those who have emerged through Somerset’s youth system like the Overton twins, Lewis Gregory and Alex Barrow, is something Trescothick clearly enjoys.
He freely admits there’s a difference between players of his generation and younger players whose fitness levels were produced a much earlier age, but says his teammates remain keen to learn from him.
“They understand the element of experience that they don’t have and they’re trying to learn that. So they’re always feeding off different things and trying to pick my brains and understand that sort of thing.
“They might have all the youth, of course they do. Whereas I wake up after a long day in the field and can hardly move and they’re all bouncing round, but there’s still that side where you’ve got to think about it a bit more. You’re trying to give them as much as you can and make them understand what they’ve got to do.”
Veteran he may be, but Trescothick understands that youthful excitement and enjoyment of the game only too well.
“When your new package arrives and your new bats and gloves and things like that,” he grins. “I was knocking in my new bats yesterday afternoon when everyone had gone home, it was just like, “okay, let’s get ready”. That’s what it’s all about.”