I first met Marcus Trescothick in the summer of 2000 at Honiton Cricket Club, for whom I was a member in those days. The event was a business sixes day as part of Peter Bowler’s benefit season and Marcus had agreed to partake and support his team-mate.
Marcus had yet to play for England on the day we shared a few minutes talk time. In fact on that day the England team had been announced for the next Test Match and Marcus had been overlooked despite press pressure for him to be given a chance. He was clearly disappointed but, being Marcus, he talked of carrying on, scoring lots of runs and putting the selectors in a position where they could overlook him no more.
And that is what he did, scored lots of runs, and he did get the call to say he had been selected about two weeks later and the rest, as they say, is history.
Since that day I have exchanged brief greetings with Marcus at the County Ground even having the audacity to greet him by name once while passing in the street in Taunton just like we were best buddies as he walked with his wife and I with mine. He, of course, returned the best wishes.
I have watched his career blossom, not only on the field where he is a true great of the game, but also observed how he conducts himself off it with the media, fans and all else. He is not just a class player but a class man. What you see is what you get with Marcus and for all his wealth and ability he remains a polite, humble and modest man devoted to his family, team-mates and selection of friends.
When I contacted Spencer from the Somerset media team by email to inform him that the great man had been voted May’s player of the month by readers of The Incider, also requesting a photo opportunity to present his bottle of champagne, it was more in hope than expectation. Not because I thought Marcus would not be prepared to do this or feel he is above such a request, but he is Marcus Trescothick after all, the Somerset captain and a much sought after man. This being the height of the season I was sure he would be too busy playing, practicing, working on his flourishing media career or recuperating by spending some family time.
So when Spencer returned my email saying Marcus had agreed to my request and was available at 3pm on Friday 27th June – a few hours before the T20 Blast match versus Essex – I cannot deny the nerves kicked in. This is Marcus Trescothick, a Somerset great and legend of the game, and I would get to talk with him for my website.
What confounded my nerves was a bit of good old fashioned self-doubt. I don’t claim to be a journalist or even a particularly good writer. However I can put a couple of sentences together and, in the case of Somerset CCC, have huge passion for the subject matter and can write and talk for hours about the club. I am one of those people that some of the press men up in the press box, those that have worked for years and gained the qualifications and spent their time in the rain on a dark night waiting for that exclusive story, find rather aggravating. And this is understandable as here I am, a mere novice with no formal qualification who thinks forming a website and offering the odd blog offers the right to broadcast an opinion. A blogger, nothing more, nothing less. An amateur. And my website has only been live since April, less than three months.
Despite the self-doubts I was determined to embrace this chance. After all, this was Marcus Trescothick, a thoroughly nice man, not some diva like Britney Spiers. What could go wrong?
The Incider’s player of the month awards are being sponsored by Richard Brice from Somerset County Sports so getting to the ground at 2.30pm on the 27th I made a beeline to the club shop to see Bricey. I then let Spencer know I was available should Marcus be able to do the photo a few minutes early. I loitered with intent near to Spencer’s desk with Richard for about 15 minutes. I was introduced to Guy Lavender (what a nice chap he is!) who chatted with me for about five of those minutes which calmed my nerves.
And then I saw Marcus about to enter the room, he was bang on time. He said hello to everyone and I introduced myself and flung out a hand. He greeted me and offered a surprisingly firm hand shake. Bloody firm in fact!
Armed with camera Spencer ushered us out onto the pitch and we stood in the glaring sunshine – myself, Richard and Marcus – and the picture was done and dusted in a few minutes. I seized my chance stuttering the words: “Can I have a few words please, Marcus?”
“You can have as many as you want mate!” he replied. Phew!
I sat in the T20 dugout by the side of the pitch and Marcus followed and sat down too. I turned on my Dictaphone and pulled out the paper with the questions I had typed up in preparation of this moment.
Ready, get set, go!
I then promptly fluffed my opening line by saying: “Well Marcus, congratulations on winning the player of the year award!”
Player of the year? Hey? What a prat I am. Marcus responded with: “Player of the year? Already?”
I corrected myself. His gentle laughter was a brief comfort. I composed myself for another assault.
So how did it feel to be winning awards voted for by Somerset supporters after all these years? He said: “It’s nice, though I would like a few more honours even at my age. It’s always nice, the fans have voted for it so obviously you have got to play well and match up and perform and that’s what it’s all about. That can be tricky with the demands of the schedule so it’s very nice to come out on top this time.”
So what motivates the Somerset captain after all these years in the game?
“I still have the same passion and want to get runs. It’s a unique thing, you want to score and get hundreds in front of people here (at Taunton) and put in performances that put your team in winning positions, that is the most important thing. Being the captain you want to drive your team forward to keep winning games and then hopefully trophies.”
After what he referred to as a tricky 2013, this season has been something of a renaissance. A few days after this interview Marcus struck a third Championship hundred which gave the skipper a new record as he passed Lionel Palairet’s record of scoring most first class runs at Taunton. Had he done anything different over the winter and what had Dave Houghton (Somerset’s new batting coach) done to help Marcus and the team?
“I think we worked a bit differently, we simplified things over winter just to take it all back to basics and then rebuild it. But that wasn’t just me it was everybody. We wanted to make it an easier process for everyone to understand their role.”
But ask any of the players or coaching team at Taunton who they feel is the hardest worker in training and they will unanimously nominate their captain. He said: “You can’t substitute anything with putting in the hard work. The volume of hitting balls, hours spent working in the gym, practicing – there’s no substitute for that at all.”
In late April Marcus scored his first Championship century for 18 months against Sussex at the Hove. I have never known an innings so closely followed on Twitter and it felt like every Somerset supporter in the world was tweeting as every run was scored and he neared the hundred. “Go on Tres!”, “Go on Banger!” and then when the ton was achieved a massive outpouring of ‘Tres Love’, highlighting his huge popularity with Cricket fans in general, not just Somerset fans. Could he describe the feeling when he reached three figures that day?
“Yes it was a nice feeling and it had been a while. Last season was a tricky one so it’s inevitable that when you go through a lean spell you want to get to the next milestone that you strive for. So it was a monkey off the back if you like.”
But, as always, the skipper’s first thoughts were for his team: “For me it was more about putting the team in a position to win the game because I knew it was a tricky pitch and we had lost the toss. But I could sense we were getting closer and closer to getting a winning score and I knew that by the time we were all out we had probably enough runs to win. And that’s what the situation was as we bowled them out twice to win well. That was the nice part.”
Marcus had won the May player award and it was indeed a great month for him and the runs flowed with another ton, this time against Durham at Taunton. Was this innings his May highlight?
He said: “Yes. Again it was the same sort of process (as Sussex) as the rain was around so you’re trying to win the game as quickly as possible. There was then a massive thunder storm on the last morning but the damage was done as we had already put that great partnership together the night before, myself and Johan Myburgh, scoring at 5-6 an over for a good period of time to get ahead of the game. The nice part of that was that we could get the big points needed to put us right back in the mix at the top of the league.”
What was most satisfying for a lot of Somerset supporters is the fight the team is showing this season, particularly the growing number of talented youngsters. Being asked to bat in some dire situations the youngsters are batting right down the line and adding match winning runs at the tail. Likewise the bowling unit, under the supervision of Jason Kerr, are working harder even when little is going their way, the pitch offers little and batsmen look set for a big score. This in stark contrast to the some of the collapses and heavy defeats of 2013. What did the captain put this new found strength down to?
“Of course they gain experience just from one more year as a professional cricketer so are going to improve in certain areas and are always going to be working hard to get better. As a team we have become tougher mentally this year through processes we have worked on over winter and I think that enables the team to fight harder. The more you harp on about it the more you drive home to people that it’s important for 11 to bat not just 5 or 6 and you have to bowl with responsibility to the team. And, of course, if you have players like Lewis Gregory coming in at 9 or 10, and even at 11 in one game, then it makes for a long tail and you know you can still score runs all the way down and in any situation.”
Again in stark contrast to 2013 the Championship form has overshadowed the T20 performances. Unbeaten in the first eight games the first defeat was at Notts a few days prior. Again Marcus pulled no punches when asked why Somerset had lost the game, saying: “It was the toss of a coin. Wrong decision to bat first. The pitch did a hell of a lot more than we expected it to do and then you have two international quality bowlers like (Peter) Siddle and (Harry) Gurney bowling it tight at you and they managed to make use of the conditions and got it to nip around. You expect a new ball to nibble about a little bit early on but it did more than we expected. That said myself and Chris Read both said we would have batted first if we won the toss.”
Back to the limited overs stuff and was that night’s game (Essex in the T20 Blast) a ‘must win’ game? Marcus said: “Yes we are getting close to that point now where we need to get points on the board every game. It will be a tough game against a good side.”
And regarding his own short and long term future, Marcus had often been quoted as saying he would like to carry on playing for Somerset beyond the age of 40, like Mark Ramprakash and others did elsewhere. Is this still the case?
“My targets are no different. My first target was to play until I am forty and my current contract will take me there, injuries allowing, and then I will go from there. I have not set any other distance. This season we’re going OK in the Championship but obviously lost our first game last week but we still got a lot of work to do in that competition. And we still have a shout in the T20 Blast and the 50-over competition so we’ll all keep going.”
With tongue in cheek was he looking forward to seeing Jos (Buttler) on Sunday for the Lancashire Championship match? He responded with a beaming smile: “No, not at all!”
I interjected by making the assumption that it will be nice to see Jos but not with him scoring loads of runs against his home county. With a roar of laughter Marcus added: “Yeah!”
And did he have a message for Incider readers, especially those that voted for him?
“Thank you very much. It’s an honour and I hope I can carry on my form down the line.”
And that was it. Marcus headed back to the Andrew Caddick Pavilion holding aloft his bottle of champagne to the empty stands in celebratory style and I headed off to the press box to write my blog.
I can’t understand why I got so wound up about meeting Marcus Trescothick. What an absolute legend he is. Class is permanent!