A left-hander of rare merit

G. VISWANATH

MARCUS TRESCOTHICK, the Player of the Tournament in the recent NatWest series, is heading for greater glory. He arrived a bit late on the international scene, but when he did in the summer of 2000, it was in such a forthright fashion that took even England by surprise. In the third season of his international career, Trescothick has established himself in the team in both forms of the game and is also tipped to be the future captain of England. Trescothick's opening partner in Test matches, Mark Butcher, who flayed the Australian attack in the Leeds Test some 12 months ago, has not even played a one-day international.

-N. SRIDHARAN

Another left-hander, Graham Thorpe, has been one of England's leading run-makers in one-day internationals (2380 from 82 matches) and in Tests (5104 runs from 76 matches). Thorpe announced his retirement from one-day internationals during the final of the NatWest Trophy Triseries at Lord's. "I have made the decision for two reasons. Firstly, in terms of keeping my body fit, it is becoming harder to do so playing both Tests and one-day internationals. So I have decided to concentrate on just playing Test matches. Secondly, I want to have more time to build a relationship with my two children, given my new personal circumstances at home", said Thorpe.

It is speculated that the Surrey batsman, Butcher, considering his experience in Tests has a good chance of replacing Thorpe in the one-day internationals. It is also felt that Butcher should take Nick Knight's place because the latter failed in the NatWest Series. Whether Butcher makes it or not will be known when the England team is announced for the ICC knock-out tournament in Sri Lanka.

While the careers of Thorpe and Butcher have seen twists and turns, Trescothick's - he is younger by six years (to Thorpe) and by three years (to Butcher) - is following a steady course. His poorest run, though, came recently in New Zealand when he made only 47 runs in five one-day internationals.

But the Somerset left-hander made up for that bad patch with big scores in three of the seven matches he played in the NatWest Trophy. This is also his favourite tournament, Trescothick having scored 899 runs in 20 matches. His third hundred - 109 against India in the final - took his aggregate in this year's championship to 362. It also won him the 'Player of the Tournament' award.

Trescothick has been a revelation because he was literally unknown in the County circuit. So when he made 79, 49, 29, 87, 87, 20 and 23 in his first season for England in the NatWest Trophy triseries in 2000 (West Indies and Zimbabwe were the other teams), the selectors were vindicated. More importantly, England had found a promising opener.

He was an instant success, though the selectors brought him only for the third Test of the home series against the West Indies in 2000. Trescothick made 66 and 38 in his first Test, falling to Courtney Walsh in the first innings and remaining undefeated in the second innings of the match which England won.

Trescothick's plus point is that he does not allow pressure to weigh him down. His game is based on strong fundamentals and he plays shots all round the wicket without the fear of failure. It is this quality that prompted cricketer-turned-columnist Peter Roebuck to say that captaincy cares would not affect Trescothick's batting at the highest level.

Trescothick was England's most consistent batsman in this summer's NatWest event. He threw his wicket away to Sri Lanka's left-arm seamer Nuwan Zoysa in the opening match at Trent Bridge. Thereafter he compiled runs in typical fashion with scores of 86 (India), 82 (Sri Lanka), 23 (Sri Lanka), 27 (India), 9 (India) and finally 109 in the final. He was at ease dealing with the Indian seamers and spinners.

He had also proved his mettle in India making 35 and 95 in the last two one-day internationals in New Delhi and Mumbai which England won to square the series. He had an aggregate of 174 in the three-Test series against India, missing a century by one run in the second innings of the first Test at Mohali.

The aggressive left-hander was subjected to a test of character in the Ashes series at home. He was not spectacular, but he made two half-centuries against an attack comprising Glenn McGrath, Jason Gillespie and Shane Warne. Gillespie dismissed him four times and McGrath and Warne once each. He scored close to 300 runs in his first Ashes series. Even Warne was impressed by Trescothick's positive play.

Trescothick's stock rose in the early phase of his career because he was one of the few England batsmen who defied the odds and Muttiah Muralitharan in Sri Lanka during England's tour in early 2001. He made 246 runs with a century (122) in the first Test at Galle which England lost. His second century came against Pakistan at Manchester in June 2001. He was scoring runs aplenty, but not with the same consistency in one-day internationals. He was still contributing to the team's wins as he did in New Delhi and Mumbai. But in spite of Trescothick scoring 121 at the Eden Gardens, England lost the match.

In about two years he has played 25 Tests and scored 1837 runs (average 41.75) and 44 one-dayers (1610 runs). The Indian bowlers will be up against a batsman in form when the four-Test series starts at Lord's on July 25. The spiritual home of cricket is his favourite ground, Trescothick having scored three centuries, two in the NatWest Triseries and one more in an ECB-run tournament there. In his column for a tabloid, Trescothick praised India's victory in the final. Like most England cricketers Trescothick must be looking forward to the Ashes series this winter in Australia. The ultimate goal of every England cricketer is to make an impact in an Ashes series. That will be Trescothick's goal, too, apart from proving his mettle again in the home series against India.