Battle with the mind: The darkness that asphyxiated Marcus Trescothick in the spring of his career

Written by Sandip G

Updated: April 3, 2020 11:44:57 pm

Marcus Trescothick was the first cricketer to address depression openly. (File Photo/AP)

I didn’t have a clue what was going on, except there was something drastically wrong. I thought I was going to die. And having to deal with that was a nightmare.” Marcus Trescothick, Coming Back to Me

Former England opener Marcus Trescothick was the first cricketer to address depression openly, at a time when such threads were considered an admission of vulnerability, a weakness rather than an illness. He poignantly describes the struggles in his taboo-breaking memoir, so much so that, as the book hurtles to the last few pages, Trescothick the cricketer becomes a fringe figure. There’s a heart-wrenching account of when the “dark feelings” began asphyxiating him, when he finally felt the severity of the condition he was grappling with.

He recalls his four-star imprisonment in a hotel in Baroda at the start of the India tour in 2006. Images kept flickering through his brain: “What was happening at home? Was Hayley [his wife] OK? Was Ellie [his daughter] all right? Oh God, what if something happened to Ellie and she needed my help and I wasn’t there … Oh God, I should be there. What the hell am I doing here? What the hell is happening? When will it stop? Will it stop at all? Am I actually, here and now, in this room, going mad?”

His wife was suffering from post-natal depression, his father-in-law suffered a near-fatal accident. All that added to the fear of his children not recognising him when he got home. He aborted the 2006 tour after the warm-up game in Baroda. Trescothick was in the spring of his career, arguably the best English batsman of his time. But then he cracked, not by pressure on the field, but something external. “At that point, I was a shell. You could have taken all my kit, all my money, taken my life away. I didn’t care.”

He writes that he used to get similar vibes back in his younger days too, when he had to stay away from home. He used to worry about “mum and dad and my home and my sister and my cats and my stuff”. But then, he waged a fight to not show it. “People try and hide depression all the time. I hid it for weeks, months and a couple of years before saying I don’t want to run from this anymore.”

READ | Trescothick walks into sunset after getting standing ovation for 12th man duties in final match

Back in the day, it was considered unmanly. He points out that “anxiety problems are seen as a weakness. People tell you to pull yourself together. But it is an illness, it’s not something you make up.”

He tried different ways to cope with it, even listening to Eminem. It did help him. He recounts: “I got into this zone where my mind was so focused on the song that everything else seemed to happen in slow motion. The bowler would let go of the ball, and I felt as if I could see every part of the seam, so I knew which way it was going to swing. It felt so simple. It was like being in The Matrix, where he’s dodging the bullets.”

He recovered, enjoyed a productive phase, before the “dark-winged fury” relapsed. He dusts up an incident at the Heathrow Airport, minutes before boarding a flight to Dubai for a pre-season camp. “I ordered a bacon and egg sandwich and as I finished the last bite, time stopped for a millisecond. In that blink of the mind, I was cooked and I knew it. Sensing I could go at any second, I was desperate to get up from the table and get away from the other two lads because I never liked breaking down in front of other people. I managed to get as far as Dixons. Oh, God.”

It was enough for him to realise that it’s the end of his England career. “But when the moment came, so did certain truths and the most hurtful one was this: I could never again contemplate the possibility of playing cricket for my country, the love of my professional life.”

Thus at 31, with a credible Test record of 5,825 runs at 43.79 in 76 games, he retired from international cricket. He continued racking up runs for Somerset till he was 43, but rather than the cricketer he was or the cricketer he could have been, he would be remembered for his taboo-breaking memoir.

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