He ought to be the keystone of the side

ENGLAND NEEDS Marcus Trescothick but the team also needs a guarantee that he is fully committed to the cause.-VIVEK BENDRE

Class is PERMANENT, the cricketers love to trumpet, and Marcus Trescothick will turn on the run machine again soon, writes TED CORBETT.

It's a great pity, but before we can begin what is likely to be called The Burnt-Out Ashes series, this summer will have to include a long debate on the merits of Marcus Trescothick.

That only goes to show what happens when public relations types decide to indulge in what the House of Commons calls terminologically inexact and the rest of us call lies.

On many occasions I have been sitting in press briefings, media conferences and off the record chats and wondered: Why do they do it?

I guess an unexpected event causes a moment of panic, there is the need for an explanation and telling a porky pie appears easier than reaching for the truth.

Remember the case of Shane Warne and Mark Waugh, revealed as having consorted with bookmakers, which was covered up by ICC and the Australian authorities? I wondered then what they had hidden before that made them think they would get away with this deception. The naughtiness never remains buried and when it all comes tumbling out the perpetrators look very foolish indeed. Let me just remind you what happened in Baroda three months ago. Trescothick, who had just been appointed captain because Michael Vaughan was going home to cure his knee troubles, batted twice in that match for a total of 50 runs. When he came out for the second time there was a phone call waiting for him.

No one seems to know what was said but by the end of the call Trescothick, as placid a guy as you can meet, was in tears. It appears that at that moment he decided he needed to go home and before you could say, "Batsmen are greedy, bowlers are lazy," he was on a plane for Heathrow.

Just as quickly, Duncan Fletcher told the press — who were naturally curious about a team who had already lost Vaughan, Ashley Giles and Simon Jones — that Trescothick had a personal problem and asked them to respect his privacy.

Some newspapers did send reporters to his house in Taunton. The cricket writers were baffled but they kept their distance. I have spent too much of my time since telling friends I don't know why Trescothick went home and I may tell you I have received some curious looks of disbelief.

I knew someone would provide an answer to why Trescothick has failed to display the spirit of Eddie Paynter.

Paynter left his hospital bed to bat for England in the Bodyline series; Trescothick left his team to fight on without him. Of course the result was that Andrew Flintoff took charge to such an effect that the Test series was drawn against all the odds.

What happened in the one-day series was purely the result of the devastating injury problems England suffered. I refuse to take any notice of those matches.

The scales were too heavily weighted in India's favour.

Anyway, the kindly English reporters left Trescothick alone to sort out what they assumed to be marital concerns and when the team returned home it was all forgotten.

Sadly, the public relations people stuck their oar in again and left Trescothick to claim he had been suffering from a virus. Once more the loudest protest was from the ghost of Mr. Paynter.

I used to train young journalists and I can tell you I would have been annoyed if one of those 16-year-olds had failed to ask Trescothick about the contrast between his "virus" and the ECB's tale of "personal problems."

Ian Ward, first class opening bat and work-in-progress journalist, did not think to make that point during a television interview and more tongues chattered.

Three days later I was at a dinner attended by a man soaked in cricket knowledge, by several men on the fringe of county administration and a couple of international athletes. They also wanted to know: What is the Trescothick thing all about?

I cannot give you anything but guess work. I believe Trescothick already faced a tough tour as the most consistent batsman when he heard that he would have to lead the team in the Test and one-day series as well. He probably had a virus or at least a debilitating cold and then he received bad news from home.

Whatever that was hardly matters. It was the straw that broke his back and, in the midst of a minor breakdown, he could take no more. He fled.

As I write he is batting like his old self. Class is permanent, the cricketers love to trumpet, and he will turn on the run machine again soon. But dare England trust him to stay the course, for instance, in Australia next winter?

Remember, they have the recent example of Graham Thorpe to sway their thinking. Thorpe, who was as much as Trescothick the rock to whom England were moored, left India when his marriage troubles loomed.

The ICC Trophy, the Ashes series, the one-dayers in Australia and the World Cup make the next 10 months historic and Trescothick ought to be in the thick of the battle.

Does he want success enough to drive himself into every skirmish? Can he face every tough match with fire in his belly? Or, as the selectors must suspect, will he want to go home whenever difficulties surface?

He ought to be the keystone of the side, England's most prolific run-scorer, averaging 45 in Tests and 40 in one-dayers, an inspiration to the youngsters, the reliable leader when Vaughan is injured, ill or tired.

Instead he is a star set on an uncertain course across the heavens.

Can David Graveney, the sympathetic chairman of the selectors, and Duncan Fletcher, the coach with the confidence of the whole team, and Vaughan, his friend and former opening partner, trust this man who turned and flew?

Or are England better off with Alistair Cook aged 21 with no wife and family to crease his brow?

Trescothick ought to be the first name on the team sheet, not imaging that Cook can overtake him. Instead he will be the subject of a thousand headlines, the first name to be debated in the selection process.

He must be told. England need him but they also need a guarantee that he is fully committed to the cause.

Once that is settled Trescothick can be chosen for the coming winter tours and England can consider a more vital aspect of modern touring.

How can they ensure that in this overcrowded calendar with its back-to-back Tests, its regular supply of money-earning one-day matches and its difficult travel schedule their young professionals do not burn out?

It must be true that they are all suffering from exhaustion. Every England player says so, Adam Gilchrist said the Australians would be burnt out by the World Cup before he began a four-month holiday and the powers that be are indulging in earnest debate.

But please; just tell me this. Why do teams in the sub-continent not complain about their tiredness even though they play more often than most?

And why, when I sat next to David Shepherd at a tribute dinner the other night did this 18st, 65-year-old man not grumble or whinge or weep bitter tears about his days in 40 degrees?

Rather he wished he was back on the circuit, although he thought 55 not 65 was the right age for an umpire to retire. Perhaps he is just made of sterner stuff.