Tres hails Overton to fire it up Down Under
ASHES legend Marcus Trescothick is backing Somerset team-mate Craig Overton to bring fire and guts to England’s winter campaign down under, without overstepping the line with the kind of behaviour that has led to disciplinary issues in the past.
And the veteran opener believes skipper Joe Root should promote himself to the problem number three position when the series gets underway in the first Test at the Gabba next month.
Trescothick believes Overton could be a surprise package if he is given his chance in the absence of Ben Stokes, who may miss at least part and probably all of the series following his arrest on suspicion of actual bodily harm.
Overton was picked initially as back-up to the starting XI, but if a spot does open up in Stokes’ absence, Trescothick thinks the uncapped all-rounder has the potential to fill it and steer clear of trouble should the five-Test series turn into the ‘war’ promised by Aussie batsman David Warner – an inflammatory comment described by Trescothick this week as “pathetic”.
“Craig is not a like-for-like replacement, more of a younger Chris Woakes – a bowler who can bat and hit the ball hard. It is a roll of the dice because he is untried at this level, but he certainly wouldn’t let anyone down with the ball, not at all. In fact, he might thrive in Australian conditions where the ball bounces a bit more.
“We’ve seen his ability to extract lift on various pitches this season, where there’s an extra bit of bounce. He bowls deliveries which remind me of some of those Andy Caddick used to produce – balls that come from nowhere, flying up from a length past shoulder height. Watching them from slip it was like “hell, that’s proper bowling”.
Trescothick further insists that Overton has matured sufficiently to avoid a repeat of the on-field petulance that led to a two-match ban from county cricket two
seasons ago. In 2015 Overton was at the centre of racism allegations after he was reported by the umpires for telling Sussex batsman Ashar Zaidi to “go back to your own f**king country,” during a Championship match.
He denied the charge but was banned for two games by the England and Wales Cricket Board. But Overton has since undergone counselling sessions with a psychotherapist to help with anger management issues, which Trescothick believes has taught him how to channel his innate aggression correctly.
“He’s a gutsy, fiery character, hence he’s had his problems along the way,” says the 41-yearold opener. Sometimes you need to hold him back a little bit, to tell him ‘all right, calm down, chill’.
“But he has been managing himself really well and teaching himself how to conduct himself better on the pitch without dampening the fire inside.
“Now he does it in the right way, in the battle of the game, causing trouble for the batsman without stepping over the mark where, as a teammate you go, ‘right, you’re out of order’, or the umpires have to step in.
“Craig wouldn’t back down from an argument on the pitch, and he will be happy to be saying whatever he needs to say out there. Jimmy Anderson occasionally pushes that line and so does Stuart Broad. I think Craig now knows how to stay the right side of it.”
The other issue over which Trescothick’s thoughts are clear is that Root must elevate himself to three in England’s inexperienced batting line-up.
“I don’t know the internal workings of the team but, to me, Joe should bat at three, then, as the ball gets older and batting gets a little bit easier, let the others come in after him.
“It is going to be tough. England will rely heavily on Alastair Cook, Joe and Jonny Bairstow for runs and if the Aussies smell blood they will go for the kill.
“Tactically, I just don’t think that trying to grind out totals works. Look at the way the one-day team has thrived since they adopted a far more positive approach to run-making.
“There are many different ways to be positive. It’s not all about hitting fours and sixes. It’s also about being busy at the crease, always looking to pick up singles and put the fielding side under pressure. That is another reason why I’d want to see Joe go in further up the order.
“There is nothing a bowler hates more than bowling a good ball and leaking a single and Joe is brilliant at it.”
Root should also make sure he creates his own place of refuge away from the white heat of the Ashes battles.
“You know the barrage that you get there; the intensity and the atmosphere in the grounds and the people on you and at you all the time.
“Joe’s got to find a safe haven where he can relax and be peaceful with family or friends, or even on his own; the kind of place where you can have moments of calmness when the s**t is hitting the fan all around you.”
Trescothick admits he is also concerned that the Stokes affair will blur England’s focus for what will be a massive test of their psychological strength.
“It is a huge situation and if he doesn’t play it’s a huge blow and distraction. In recent times whenever we’ve gone down there with uncertainty about the team we’ve been hammered.
“When we went in 06-07 and the question was should ‘Andrew Flintoff be captain or should it be Andrew Strauss’, and then I had to come home, then the last time, when they lost Jonathan Trott after the first Test, the same thing happened.
“So, to me, it would be good to remove the uncertainty over the batting order at least, with Joe taking on the job at three.”
The Somerset opener, who is approaching what he concedes could be his last year as a player, has final words of encouragement for county team-mate Jack Leach, the left-arm spinner overlooked for the Ashes squad in favour of Hampshire leggie Mason Crane, despite another stellar Championship campaign.
“Jack has done brilliantly to come through after having had his action questioned, and there is nothing more he can do than he hasn’t done already.”
Ready to roar! Somerset paceman Craig Overton can deliver Down Under, Marcus Trescothick believes