Somerset skipper Marcus Trescothick passes on some of the tips that helped him become arguably the finest English batsman of his generation.
LEAVE WELL ALONE
“Leaving the ball successfully elevated my technique from being good enough for county cricket, to something good enough at Test level. I’d always been a positive player, but the ability to leave the ball helped me stay in against the better bowlers.
“Some bowlers – the taller ones – you can leave on length, knowing that the ball would bounce over the height of the stumps from where they pitched it. Skiddier bowlers are harder to leave on length and need leaving later.
“It was when I was facing tall, bouncy new-ball bowlers that I developed that sort of trademark ‘leave’ where I pull my bat inside the line of the ball. It can look like I’m playing and missing the ball a lot – some times I am – but generally it’s the way I worked out how to stay in when the ball is moving around and not to go chasing the ball when it was aimed outside off stump.
“After a delivery, I will occasionally walk down the pitch and look to see where the ball has landed, just to reassure myself that the ball pitched where I thought it pitched. I suppose that if you hit as many balls as I do, then you get to know where your off stump is pretty well.”
LINING THE BOWLER UP
“I hit so many balls in practice that I know that when a ball lands full and straight I will hit it in the same direction it came, straight back down the ground. I don’t aim the stroke, as such. It just happens. It lands there [points to a spot on the pitch on a length, around off stump], and it goes there [makes a simple drive shape, extending his front foot, keeping the face of the blade perfectly square to the line of the ball].”
“It’s a bit of a myth with my batting that it is lack of footwork that gets me out. It doesn’t. I nick the ball if I’m late on it when coming forward. It’s not lack of footwork, it’s lateness of footwork that sees me nick off.”
PLAYING YOUR STROKES
“I’m not the sort of player who thinks much about the pitch, conditions, who is bowling or anything much. I tend to go out, take guard on middle and try to make sure I’m in a ‘see it and hit it’ mindset.”
“It isn’t very often that I’ll change my guard. I will move in the crease if a specific bowler is setting a very specific challenge. Makhaya Ntini is someone who is unusual to face. I ended up setting up on leg stump to let the ball go across me. I had to open myself up a lot more in order to face the ball from where he was delivering it.
“I might shuffle across my stumps if the off-spinner is on and I’m looking to get him on the legside. I wouldn’t ask for a fresh guard of off stump or middle and off, but I will just pinch across a bit.
“If the wicketkeeper comes up to the stumps I will probably go back into the crease another six inches. This allows me a bit of licence for dragging my back foot forward and not get me stumped, should I miss the ball.”
INSTINCT VERSUS EXPERIENCE
“I try to play on instinct more than experience. Experience informs the decisions you make and the choices you adopt, but if I’m playing well, I’m playing instinctively.”
“I’m not much of a hooker. I think it’s a low percentage shot for me. I’ll pull the ball if it’s chest high, but anything above that I don’t feel I have the control of the stroke and so try to duck under it.”
“It’s a good way of ticking a score over and of manipulating the ball around the field. I play a range of sweeps; from a very fine paddle-sweep to a full-on slog-sweep. I think the secret is getting into position early but making sure that you don’t get your weight right over your front foot. If you do that it ‘traps’ your body weight on the foot and makes it difficult to move it again. If I keep my weight slightly back and balanced on my back knee, which should be on the ground, then I can move my foot again to position it in the right place to open up the field. I can also then decide much later what I am going to do, whilst the ball is in the air. Initially, thinking about knocking the ball around the corner for a single can be changed into hitting a ball out of the ground if the ball is bowled ‘in the slot’ and you haven’t got yourself in a position from which you can’t move.
“I think when you are sweeping the toughest ball to cope with is a yorker. If I do find myself faced with one coming down at me I will try to catch it on the full and use the pace of the ball to direct it down to fine leg.”
LOOK FOR THE BALL
“I look for the ball from as far back in a bowler’s run-up as I can. By doing this it gives me the earliest clue as to what the bowler might be looking to bowl and also something to focus on as he runs up. When he gets into his action I’ll then look up to the area – the ‘box’ – where experience and practice tells me the ball will be released from. And from that point I’m looking to pick up the trajectory of the ball at its earliest point.
“I find bowlers with good actions are easier to pick up – they’re no easier to play, but they are easier to see all the way through their delivery stride. Brett Lee is a bowler like that.
“It’s the bowlers who are all arms and legs who are hard to pick up. Someone like Shaun Tait is hard to see – he’s slingy, he collapses at the crease, he swings it and he bowls the ball at 90mph!”
CATCHERS POSITIONED IN FRONT OF THE BAT
“For what seems like ages now, I’ve batted with fielders stationed as catchers ‘on the drive’. I’m so used to it that I don’t find it a real problem. I back myself to middle the ball and if I middle it and time the ball then those fielders will struggle to react to it and stop it, let alone catch it.
“I find bowlers like Dimitri Mascarenhas really annoying! He puts no pace on the ball to work with, he’s accurate and if the ball is nibbling around a bit, he’s hard work.”
THE SWINGING BALL
“I like the ball swinging into me. I don’t know whether that’s the case for all left-handers. If the ball swings into the stumps I know I can play it into the legside, with the swing, and pick up runs. I find the ball that leaves me the hardest. I’m not much of a cutter of the ball and I don’t like getting drawn into playing away from my body outside the off stump if I can help it.”
RUNNING BETWEEN THE WICKETS
“When running singles, a lot of the time it’s a look up, a bit of eye contact and off you go. Problems with running can occur when you’re not used to batting with someone. Batting with Jamie Cox [former Somerset and Tasmania captain], I’d just drop the ball at my feet and by the time I looked up to see what was happening, he’d be halfway down and running.
“I found running with Kevin Pietersen difficult. He’s lightning fast and I’m really slow. I ran him out in a warm-up game in Pakistan when I’d just got in for two and sent him back when he was looking for four!”
PACING A RUN CHASE
“If you get to the stage where by the middle of the innings you only need to maintain three or four runs per over, you are going to win.
“But as far as reining myself in and just knocking the runs off, I would have to say that it’s not really my style. I’ll tend to go for it and try to finish things off early, and if I come off, great, but if not, it should be pretty straightforward for the rest of the side to knock off the remainder.”
“I’m not someone who very easily gets dragged into slanging matches. If someone is directly abusive – the ‘you’re rubbish’ kind of stuff – I find that very easy to ignore. The stuff that does get in my ear is the sort of stuff where you overhear things said between players. Matthew Hayden was a master of talking about you, but not to you. Warne was the same. He’s brilliant at it. Making observations about how you’re playing, what you might be doing wrong. I found Hayden really annoying because whenever he seemed to play against us he was playing well, so had plenty to say.”