Tag: Jonathan Trott (page 1 of 3)

Unguarded by Jonathan Trott – book review

Sam writes:

My shelves are groaning under the weight of cricket autobiographies.

The best – among them Coming Back To Me by Marcus Trescothick and Nasser Hussain’s Playing With Fire – are well-thumbed.

The others tend to blur together. Tales of pushy parents, age group potential, Test debuts and tearful retirements can almost be written by numbers.

If you’re feeling particularly masochistic, give Michael Vaughan’s A Year In The Sun a whirl. Bet you won’t make it to the end without chewing your own face off.

When Jonathan Trott’s new effort appeared on my doormat, I raised a sceptical eyebrow. Would this tell me anything I didn’t already know?

I needn’t have worried. Unguarded is a wonderfully honest, brutally painful account of how one of England’s most reliable batsmen decided he could bear the pressure no longer.

As a long-time Warwickshire fan, I have followed Trott’s progress since his county debut but never entirely warmed to him.

Regular readers will know all about my obsession with Trott’s middle order colleague, a chap named Ian Bell.

While Bell flashed, dashed, posed and perished, Trott was the guy at the other end. A solid plodder, quietly getting on with the job.

Needless to say, as the years went by he became a firm favourite. He proved you don’t have to be a show-pony to win the hearts of England fans; you just need to score runs. Lots and lots of runs.

Most sportsmen and women sit in press conferences and burp out platitudes about how their chosen discipline has come to define their very existence.

“It means the world to me,” they gush. “I’ve worked so hard to get here.”

This is the story of a man who became so consumed by cricket that it swallowed him whole.

King Cricket once wrote an amusing piece of fiction in which Trott plays his kids at table-tennis for two whole weeks, relentlessly refuses to let them win a game and “feels immense satisfaction with his performance.”

Reading that again now, it takes on a whole new perspective. Living every second for cricket is all very well when you’re churning out the hundreds. When things started to go wrong, there was nowhere else to turn.

The book is structured in an odd way – it might have made more sense to tell the story chronologically rather than jumping around – but there is no disputing its power.

Wisely, he decides not to spend too much time on his childhood and dives straight into the beginnings of what was later diagnosed as situational anxiety.

Unusually for such a self-centered genre, each chapter features contributions from Cook, Pietersen, Ashley Giles, Andy Flower, and Trott’s wife Abi.

The other voices only serve to reinforce Trott’s fundamental character traits: decency, modesty, determination and a hard-won sense of self-awareness which was perhaps lacking during his international career.

You can buy Unguarded from Amazon here.


Why has no-one asked Jonathan Trott’s mum how we can stamp out match-fixing?

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

We don’t normally report on excerpts from cricket autobiographies because, you know, read the book.

We have to make an exception for this majestic exchange from Jonathan Trott’s Unguarded though. (We haven’t read it, but he wrote it with George Dobell, so we’re pretty confident it’s excellent.)

After Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt uttered his immortal line about “some English players” and “loud and clear talk in the bookies’ circle” back in 2010, the players in question got the hump.

At nets the following morning, Trott asked Wahab Riaz: “You going to accuse us of match-fixing again?”

Quite why Trott confused Wahab with Ijaz Butt is unclear. Maybe Wahab had said something too, or maybe Trott believed Pakistan to be operating with some sort of Borg-like group consciousness. It doesn’t matter either way. What matters is Wahab’s response.

Wahab went with: “Your mum knows all about match-fixing.”

Quite apart from the fact that this was crying out for a “no, you are” riposte, this was nevertheless an excellent meaningless schoolboy insult and we heartily approve.

Trott didn’t agree and so hit Wahab round the head with his pads before attempting to throttle him.

In this weeks’ edition of The Spin, Andy Bull starts with this incident before exploring the merits of sledging with particular reference to Australia.

We’ve already said all we need to say on that matter: It’s a myth that Australia play better when they’re aggressive. What actually happens is that they become gobbier when they’re winning.


Jonathan Trott and no ice age

jonathan-trott-in-inaction

A lot of you will have assumed that England’s domestic 50-over competition had been and gone. The group stages barely outlasted July and the semi-finals took place three weeks ago.

The final, however, was scheduled for the arse end of the season, long after anyone could remember what preceded it. Warwickshire (not Birmingham Bears) beat Surrey.

There are different ways of chasing down an almost comically low total (Surrey made just 136). You can have a bit of fun or you can make bloody certain. In a final, the latter is what is required.

As such, who better to have at the crease than Jonathan Trott, a man who considers rocks flighty and unreliable on the grounds that they can be cracked and moved during ice ages.


Why Nick Compton is failing

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

When England dropped Nick Compton last time around, did they drop him for batting slowly and ineffectively or did they drop him for how he responded to pressure?

George Dobell has written what basically amounts to a plea for Compton to ‘dare to be dull’ over at Cricinfo. The term ‘natural game‘ is generally employed when yearning for something explosive from a batsman, but it applies here too. The confidence to play in the most appropriate way appears to be deserting England’s number three. He’s becoming weirdly skittish, which isn’t what England want, expect or need.

Back when Compton was gently eased out of the Test team in 2013, we wrote about the possibility of one day picking him again:

“Technically, you can go back, but you’d be going back to a player who’s basically been told he’s not good enough and who will therefore be a rather insecure imitation of the batsman you previously had in the team. You’d be settling for a player, rather than picking them and people pick up on that kind of message.”

Perhaps there’s something in this. Dobell alludes to his being more sensitive to criticism than most and Compton may currently be overreacting to Trevor Bayliss’s admission that he would ideally like a more dynamic top order.

It’s debatable whether or not the coach’s words were intended as a personal challenge to Compton and even if they were, he appears to have gone too far with it. This could well be overcompensation after he was dumped from his previous relationship after succumbing to paralysis, making seven off 45 balls against New Zealand when England had already secured a large first innings lead and were looking to rush to a declaration.

But that shotless batting was just a symptom. Arguably, what concerned England more was how he had responded to pressure. Sometimes you need to play shots, sometimes you need to block and leave, but a Test batsman is always, always under pressure.

Feeling himself under pressure again, Compton now seems to be going to the opposite extreme. The blocking isn’t the problem, the swishing isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that he seems easily swayed towards these extremes by outside influences.

What to do? What to do?

Compton needs to somehow find the self-confidence to plough his own furrow and we’re not sure whether this is possible. If you’re easily swayed, it’s an awful long journey to what you might call The Jonathan Trott Extreme.

Trott was a man who could plough a furrow perpendicular to all the other furrows on the field and then tell everyone else they were going the wrong way. We rather suspect you can’t teach that. Trott was quite magnificently sure of his own approach and if he was sometimes wrong, that’s a small price to pay for certainty.

Certainty is what tethers a batsman down in the storm of Test cricket. When the winds of public, media and opposition opinion roar, you need to be anchored or you’ll be dragged into behaviour that doesn’t work for you.

So if we’ve a message for Nick Compton, it’s this. When you’re feeling under pressure, don’t listen. Play your way. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re wrong – but uncertainty will always equal the latter.


England cricketers never last – why learn lessons when you’ll probably never return?

It’s a truism that the England players will learn from this series defeat to Pakistan. You could actually see it happening before your eyes at times: Jonny Bairstow fighting his impulses or Ben Stokes seemingly devising a batting method on the fly. We just wonder whether these players will ever get chance to demonstrate what they’ve taken from this schooling.

We touched on this a few days ago. England cricketers may well play as many Tests as their counterparts from other parts of the world – but they don’t tend to play for as long (quite possibly because of the very fact that they play more frequently).

The class of 2012

Last time England were in the UAE – which was all of three years ago – Jonathan Trott, Kevin Pietersen, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior, Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar all learnt plenty. But what for? When did they get chance to use that knowledge?

It’s surely no coincidence that the survivors from that series – Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, James Anderson and Stuart Broad – were among England’s best-performing players this time around. Yes, even Bell – that’s how ineffectual everyone else was. Broad even had the gall to finish with England’s third-highest batting average.

The Trott template

In many ways, Trott is the archetypal England cricketer. Other than a brief aborted comeback as an opener, his Test career basically comprises one Test touring cycle from 2009 to 2012. One tour of Bangladesh, one tour of India, one tour of New Zealand, one tour of South Africa, one tour of Sri Lanka, one tour of the UAE and one full tour of Australia, plus one aborted. Funnily enough, his later reappearance provided his only tour of the West Indies.

All of those lessons learnt. No chance to demonstrate his knowledge.

The one thing in England’s credit this time around is that the comprehensive implosion of that previous side has meant that this current one is that much younger, so there is actually a decent chance of a few of them returning to the UAE if it remains Pakistan’s rented ‘home’. We wouldn’t bet on it though, because no matter what their age, very few England players endure.

What else?

As this series comes to an end, Test cricket’s kicking off elsewhere in the world with four of the five teams above England in the rankings (Pakistan are the other) currently in action. Australia are continuing their annual tradition of comforting themselves that everything’s okay during their home summer, racking up a huge total against New Zealand. Meanwhile India, the home of spin, has just played host to a masterclass from that all-time master of the art, Dean Elgar.


Jonathan Trott – the king of relentlessness finally relents

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Photo by Sarah Ansell

Our proper Jonathan Trott retirement piece is over on All Out Cricket. Other than that, here are two old posts which sum up different aspects of a top, top player.

The first focuses on the sheer relentlessness of the man – surely his defining quality. If we have a happier memory of not watching cricket than going to bed with Jonathan Trott batting in an Ashes Test Down Under and waking up to find him still doing so, we don’t know what it is.

The second is an appreciation of his bowling, which we’ll miss almost as much as his batting. Many a tense moment has been marked by a ‘get Trott on’ tweet from this writer. You can’t beat a bit of dobble at a crucial juncture in an innings.


Who do England rely on? And is that a problem?

With live cricket broadcast at a reasonable hour, a Test tour of the West Indies is one of our favourites when it comes to watching the game on TV. It’s a shame it comes hot on the heels of the World Cup, ahead of an Ashes and in conflict with the start of the county season. But you get what you’re given and all you can do is make jerk chicken, pour yourself a beer and slouch on your sofa making the best of things.

There are many things we’d like to see in the next few weeks. Two major hopes are for signs of good form from Jonathan Trott and James Anderson.

Trott

Jonathan Trott doing the usual Jonathan Trott shit

While England have ostensibly replaced Trott’s runs with those that have been produced by Gary Ballance, the effect doesn’t seem to have been quite the same. England’s good performances seem so closely associated with Trott’s good performances that he should really be branded ‘totemic’.

For some reason, you have to be attention-seeking to be branded a talisman. Andrew Flintoff and Ian Botham were thought of in these terms. Trott less so, but his influence seems to us to have been as great. Perhaps he’s less showy amulet and more rabbit’s foot contained in an inside pocket. England are shaky. His runs and influence are needed.

Anderson

James Anderson perfects ball levitation

If he plays, this will be Trott’s 50th Test. Jimmy Anderson is about to play his 100th. For a quick bowler, that is some total. However, the corollary of that is that we’ve already seen the bulk of his career. Sad to say, but it would be good to see him find form because we should savour every ball in his remaining Tests. England doesn’t produce many bowlers who are this good.

England need him as well – as much as ever, which is worrying. Where once they appeared to have a surfeit of seam bowling riches, a lot of the queue has been revealed to be illusory. Symptomatic of this is the fact that Stuart Broad is certain to play, despite not having shown any form whatsoever since his return from surgery. Fast-medium, unremarkable, largely ineffective, he somehow remains England’s first-choice opening bowler.

As ever, it seems like it’s all on you, Jimmy.

Adil Rashid

Adil Rashid bowls one at the moon

If good form from Trott and Anderson are short- to medium-term hopes, we’d also like to see England move to a place where they are less reliant on them. We’d like to see something from everyone involved, but we’d be particularly pleased if Adil Rashid can somehow get a game and a clutch of wickets.

He is, reportedly, not bowling all that well at the minute, which is a bloody shame. England’s strategy where they looked to build suffocating pressure with a battery of right-arm fast-medium bowlers now seems redundant without sufficiently reliable personnel, so it would be good to get some variety.

Everyone assumes that variety demands a fast bowler (preferably a left-armer because some of the best fast bowlers in the world are currently cack-handed and apparently that aspect is more significant than the fact that they’re good bowlers regardless of which hand they hold a pen with). But leg-spin is useful. It can provide an injection of chaos when the status quo ain’t in your favour.

Rashid is currently no Warne, but it isn’t too fanciful to assume that he could do a number on the guileless contemporary lower orders who nevertheless contribute so many runs. Plus he can bat.

Rashid would be no passenger were he to make it into the Test team, but English tradition dictates that one spinner is the default – even if you have two decent options who can also bat. Expect James Tredwell – not a feature of second division Kent’s first-class team – to play, and expect him to be judged and discarded from the one-day side on the basis of his Test performances.


Overtraining in cricket – a plea for an off season

We’ve written a rather hefty piece for Cricinfo about overtraining in cricket. We think it’s a big deal, but we get the distinct impression that no-one else really does.

It’s partly that people don’t really understand the concept. Understandably, they think it just means training too much, but overtraining is actually a label for a physiological condition that tends to come about as a result of a whole range of factors of which physical training stress is just one.

It hinges on whether or not an athlete is ever fully recovering and so it also involves all those little things which have an impact on that.

Most people don’t understand recovery

And this is simply because they don’t live a lifestyle where it’s any kind of an issue. Even if you play a lot of sport in your spare time, chances are you’re still in overall credit when it comes to recovery. You might struggle in one particular week, but it’s not something that persists for a month or a year.

An alternative title for the Cricinfo article could have been ‘a plea for an off season’ because it strikes us that international cricket seems to be actively courting overtraining. The way the sport is run seems specifically geared towards hampering recovery, enhancing mental stress and most importantly of all, engineering a situation where players define themselves by their performance. When you reach that point, things really get out of hand.

Jonathan Trott

While speaking to Dr Richard Winsley for the article, we pointed out what happened to Jonathan Trott. Thinking about what Trott had said at the start of the summer, about how he’d basically lost the ability to switch off, it struck us that this might be an example of overtraining. Winsley agreed to the extent that he is now going to use Trott as a case study.

If the Trott example tells us anything, it is that such an implosion has no single cause. Rather, it is a perfect storm of multiple, related factors. It is also pretty clear that the environment inhabited by international cricketers is one where such an outcome is increasingly likely.

An extraordinary proportion of a modern international cricketer’s time is spent with colleagues. Have you ever been on a work night out and been struck by how much you talk about the job? Imagine that all day every day. It’s not healthy. People need balance. Now imagine that this environment is all you’ve known for your entire adult life and then suddenly, in your early thirties, it’s gone. How would you adapt to that?

Fred bowled more overs

Measuring bowlers’ workloads in terms of overs is reductive. There’s far more to overtraining than that. England are playing at least one match a month from November of this year until September 2017, so anyone playing multiple formats is rarely going to be more than a week away from another flight and another hotel.

There’s an awful lot appended to a modern international over, whereas a 1950s county over is delightfully unencumbered. They’re not equal.

They’re well paid

This is the most infuriating argument of all – that players should stop moaning because it’s their job and most people would love to be in their position.

Firstly, most people would love to be in their position simply because most people are idiots and only imagine themselves raising their bat or holding aloft a trophy. Nobody plays a game for a living, because as soon you do, it ceases to be a game.

The reality is that you spend years building towards something that might be taken away from you in an instant by a slight divot or a dodgy call. You then get to spend endless hours ruminating on it. The cricket in the middle’s the tiniest fraction of your time and the majority is spent trying to address all your myriad flaws.

Whose problem is it?

The second rebuttal to the ‘they should just bloody well get on with it’ argument is that this is precisely what they are doing. It’s not generally the players who are suffering the most – it’s us, the fans. Most people who read this website – obsessive cricket people, for the most part – would be more than happy to see far fewer games being played. They’d love to see more fast bowling and fewer meaningless fixtures.

Players and coaches are just getting on with it, but that isn’t to say that everything’s fine. Rotation’s pitched as being a cure-all, but that assumes there is someone in charge who can enforce it. Is that the head coach, who needs his best players, the player fighting for his spot, or some sort of head medical officer keen to become a lightning rod for disappointed fans’ hatred?

Fatigue accumulates over time, but as often as not a decent period of rest sees it dissipate. A defined off season would be no bad thing.


The Jonathan Trott era

Jonathan Trott doing that thing where he absent-mindedly looks around the ground as if he's on his own and there aren't thousands of people looking at him

Can we make this ‘a thing’? We’re pretty sure it’s a thing.

The story goes like this: England pick Trott, he scores a hundred and they reclaim the Ashes. He then spends the next four years shielding the middle order so that it – and also the lower order – can cash in against weary, dispirited bowling attacks. At the same time, he gives his own side’s seamers nice, long armchair stints. England win quite a lot during this period. Then Trott struggles and England deteriorate. Then he leaves and England lose.

Small things

We mention this because today’s play is a good example of how the difference between two teams can widen like the cracks in the Waca pitch as a match progresses. What you see later in the game can be a little deceptive. Despite the tweets appearing on-screen during Sky Sports’ daily review show (who sends those?), we’re not suddenly seeing a dire England team and nor are we seeing an exceptional Australia team.

We’re not saying that England are but a whisker away from winning these matches, but we are saying that Shane Watson is the kind of batsman who’ll score a hundred when his team’s already 300-and-odd ahead and looking to bat for a declaration against four-fifths of a bowling attack that’s absolutely had it.

Australia are the better side in this series, but just as the 3-0 scoreline earlier in the year flattered England, so the individual match results in this series have led to too much opprobrium being heaped upon them. People love to moan – particularly English people – but they should shut up and consider that apparently big changes are often seeded by small things.

So with Trott, England would be winning?

No. We’re really just contriving an example in order to instruct overly-emotional Pommie whingers to bring it down a notch or two.

The simplified explanation of Trott’s influence that we gave at the start of this article depicts a kind of virtuous domino effect where top order solidity enables middle order consolidation which then permits a profitable lower order payout. You could paint it as being 20 more runs from number three allowing 50 more runs from eight, nine and ten – all with the added benefit that the team’s innings is extended in duration, which is great for your bowlers and terrible for those playing for the opposition. It ain’t great for their batsmen either, for that matter. Compound this over the course of a series and suddenly you’re number one in the world.

But it’s not built on much. Matches were won as a result of players cashing in on strong positions and when this happened, those players looked amazing. But those cash-in players have to stand on someone else’s shoulders.

Still not getting what this has to do with this terrible England side?

It’s not directly linked to the Trott thing. In a sense it’s a bad example, precisely because it seems like it should be so pertinent. We’re really just pleading for a sense of proportion; saying that although England are getting battered, they probably don’t deserve to be pilloried.

England have spent the vast majority of this series batting from behind. You can’t write off the second innings performances, but you do have to remember that Australia’s second innings have been played in entirely different circumstances. Same pitch, same weather, an entirely different level of pressure.

Australia’s bowling has also been tighter than a mouse’s ear. England’s fans are hugely focused on England’s players, but the bad shots you see in the highlights are preceded by a hell of a lot of restraint. Patience isn’t a constant quality. It’s something which can be eroded.

And England’s bowling? It’s not been far off. Again, second innings performances are not unimportant, but they are of somewhat diminished importance. You can’t ask Jimmy Anderson to be at his best when an Australian declaration is inevitable. He only has so much to give. First innings wise, England’s bowlers have been close. They’ve tended to dismiss the top five or six before running out of steam. It’s been a bit like watching a Gladiators contender sprinting for the top of the travelator in the final round. Sometimes the difference between reaching the top and ending up in a heap at the bottom is just a fingertip.

England have been second-best

Let’s be clear about this – let’s be utterly, utterly clear about this – but can we try and put the emphasis on ‘second’ rather than considering England to have come last. If nothing else, it’s disrespectful to the opposition to make out like only one team has any influence on the outcome of a cricket match.


Living within the England panopticon

Writing in The Times, Mike Atherton has said of the England setup:

“The impression is of a closed, institutionalised and claustrophobic world.”

We’re sure he chose his words carefully. It’s also worth noting that this is a man who felt the strains of international cricket despite only ever considering it a game. He has previously written of his efforts to quash feelings that what he was doing was inherently trivial in a bid to muster more emotion and passion:

“I somehow had to convince myself that what I was doing was the most important thing in the world – that if I failed all manner of plague and pestilence would descend.”

The point is, even a man like Atherton felt the pressure and he now perceives an even more mentally taxing environment for current England players.

It’s not so much that players are managed and mollycoddled and supervised, it’s what David Hopps draws attention to in his article for Cricinfo, that players feel like they are being judged at all times.

Imagine that level of surveillance. The principle behind the Panopticon was that people would behave in the desired manner even when they weren’t being watched, simply because they would feel that they might be being watched. Imagine the pressure of that. Imagine the effect it has on you.

The Panopticon was a design for a prison, by the way.

Hopps uses a quote from a nameless England player who says that it can feel like you are constantly being assessed when you’re within the England setup. We have no idea who that player was, but it instantly brought to mind the strange case of Nick Compton, who said after he had been discarded that he didn’t feel that the management really knew him.

More than anything, Compton appears to have been rejected on the basis of his character and while much of the incriminating detail will have been culled from the skittish innings in his final match, you wonder how much was gleaned while watching him away from the middle. Maybe the selectors got that one right, but if other players watching on deduced how the decision was reached, what was the cost?


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