What is wrong with Marcus?

Marcus Trescothick - weighed down by too much cricket?-AP ?

Any sport takes its strength from its champions and, until their needs are sorted, cricket will have a headache that cannot be cured with a couple of pills, writes Ted Corbett.

November 20 — Nine months after we first ask the question, there is still no answer to the biggest mystery in cricket. What is wrong with Marcus Trescothick? Why, at the age of 30, with a blossoming Test career, with money in the bank and all the other accoutrements of fame, does he break down just 10 days into the tour of Australia and pack his bags to go home? (And why does he need two British policemen to protect him as he gets to his house?) There are as many theories as Trescothick has fingers and toes — and almost as many sanctimonious pieces wishing him a quick return to health — so let me add my two pennyworth. First, it is not the end of his career as some writers with spectacularly short memories say. Just look at Graham Thorpe who makes a return long enough to give the selectors a headache over the choice between him and Kevin Pietersen and sometimes I wish Thorpe is the one coming through the pavilion gate. My other theory is that it is time to forget about Trescothick and his problems and deal with the causes. Too much cricket; no doubt about that. It is no use saying that W. G. Grace, Walter Hammond and Fred Trueman are all away for longer. Of course they are but their mindset did not include the 21st century man's gentler way of dealing with a wife, the age of young men who find babies a pleasure not a burden and the daily reminder of the perils of long distance travel while half the world is at war. There will be more Trescothick departures by other cricketers unless ICC applies its corporate brain to the problems created by the need to fill television schedules and their own coffers. The effect it is having on players who are suffering more injuries and greater stress is too great. I suggest it will be more worthwhile than their obsession with comparing the strengths and weaknesses of cricketers in Japan and Thailand, the promotion of the women's game and the aftermath of the Darrell Hair affair. Any sport takes its strength from its champions and, until their needs are sorted, cricket will have a headache that cannot be cured with a couple of pills.

November 21 — As we fly into Brisbane a wonderful backdrop of the rising sun greets us and makes me more optimistic about the outcome. I hold my watch in front of me so that I can time the arrival of the first sledge. Seventeen seconds after I walk into the airport an Immigration Officer glances at my documents and goes: "It's a long way to come for a flogging." At 5.50 a.m. I am too weary to think of a suitable reply but Dave Peacock, one of the original Barmy Army founders, helps out. "I'll be disappointed if Ponting is still captain at Christmas," he grins which evens the score. As we drive towards the city the radio reminds us that Ian Thorpe, the great Australian swimmer, is retiring and that — and this seems appropriate — the whole country is suffering one of its longest droughts. Later in the week relationships between Cricket Australia's henchmen and the Barmy Army appear to fall apart and the Army — a peaceful organisation in the main — threaten to call off the rest of their trip to the country where they first formed unless the security men stop "treating us like children." My own feeling is that while a great many fans may want to see the 2006-07 series they may not be so keen to return next time when the Aussie greats are retired and when the potential for excitement and fine cricket is less obvious. But getting Cricket Australia to see that point of view is difficult. There is more trouble ahead for the Barmy Army because ECB are suing over the use of the three lions logo. Nothing is simple in the legal world of course but as the Army begin to use the symbol back in 1994 it seems a bit late in the day to take the matter to court.

November 22 — One of the broadcasters also thinks of packing his bags. "There is no reason for me to stay here," he sighs. "I can only get interviews, a place at the after-match press briefing and permission to send 20 seconds of updates if I pay �30,000. I have never been asked for money for such access before. I might as well go back to the comfort of my London studio, watch the game on television and do whatever my station requires with ease. Cricket Australia are simply trying to make every penny they can out of this series and I refuse to help." I and other less favoured reporters are in the overspill box, outside and high above the action; not perfect but pretty good in the difficult circumstances.

November 23 — Water is as precious as gold leaf in this country with one of the longest droughts in its history and, quite rightly, we are frequently reminded of this fact. In the 'Gabba there is a precaution that seems a mite over the top. As soon as someone finishes washing his hands a security guy will step forward to ensure he turns off the tap which in any case springs back to the off position as soon as you take your hand away. In addition there are supervisors to ensure that the security men keep the taps dry. Out on the field Ashley Giles takes a gulp from a water bottle and tosses it towards the boundary. "Hey, Giles, mind you preserve our water. Don't you know there are restrictions here," bellows a voice from the stands, unconsciously mimicking the cry of "leave our flies alone" which is the famous sledge against Douglas Jardine, the fly molester, nearly 90 years ago.

November 24 — When his first ball wide turns into six in total Steve Harmison becomes Barmy Harmy to the headline writers. They have a lot of fun with such headlines as Wide Ya Bother and the Channel Nine commentators, now calling the game three at a time, refer to each wide as a Harmy.

November 25 — Bob Taylor, the most stylish England wicket-keeper of the last 40 years, turns up to make a video about his art with Ian Healy. Bob, an old friend of this diary, is known to one and all as Chat because of his love of a conversation but he is lost for words as England stumble from one difficulty to another. Never mind, Bob, it may all come right in the end. It is exactly 52 years since Len Hutton's team crashes to an innings defeat at the 'Gabba and still wins the series 3-1. Perhaps another miracle is in the offing.

November 26 — Brett Lee announces that his baby is to be called Preston Charles Lee, making us all wonder if he names his son in honour of Andrew Flintoff, who famously consoles him during the last series. Flintoff is proud of his home town and high profile figures from the world of entertainment seem to delight in calling their children strange names, based on the city where the little ones are conceived. Not so, I am told. Lee's choice is just a fashion thing.