Past Tense

With the dust settling on Jonathan Trott's return home, and with the precise reasons for it still unclear, thoughts turn to what he has left behind.

If it is to be the end of his England career - and no-one yet has any firm idea about that, including, I'm sure, Trott himself - he leaves behind him a legacy of apparently emotionless intensity, of striving purposefulness and of calmness under fire which has served England well through both difficult and glorious times. With all this said, though, the feeling persists, as I touched upon back in June here, that Trott has never, will never, quite be admired in the way many of his colleagues in the current England team are, let alone the way in which many England players of the past (think Tom Graveney, to take just one example) have been truly and unconditionally loved.

The recent turn of events has shown that Trott - scowling, balding, crease-occupying, Jonathan Trott - is as vulnerable as the rest of us (and we warm to him just a little more for that), but the fact remains that for most of his four years in the England side, regardless of the runs he made, he was just a little too much of an outsider for people's comfort. His lack of visible emotion, his occasional (exaggerated by his critics) reluctance to adjust his approach to the perceived needs of the situation and the obvious otherness of his accent all contributed to this in a way that similar traits haven't for other players. Trott is no more or less South African (or English) than his erstwhile colleague Kevin Pietersen, but for all his perceived arrogance, Pietersen's relative extroversion, and the dazzlingly innovative genius of his batting, have brought him closer to the hearts of England fans than anything Jonathan Trott ever did.

This, of course, is unfair; many of the things which Jonathan Trott did for England were exceptional. Of course you had the century on debut, of course you had the doubles at Lord's and Cardiff, of course you had the runs which nailed the Australian coffin shut during England's last tour there, but most of all you had the innings during which he, in partnership with Stuart Broad, took a Test away from Pakistan on the day spot fixing came to Lord's. Regardless of where his front foot was landing, Mohammad Amir was making it talk that morning, and Trott's judgement and resolution, coupled with his finely tuned awareness of when and how to start to take the game to, and then away, from the opposition, marked him down as someone who could be a player for the ages. It may not be widely recalled as such yet (perhaps, in the future, it will), but that was a truly great innings.

As to what else Trott has left behind, he has left an England team which, for all its planning, its attention to detail and its past successes, stands close to the precipice. Established players' form continues to falter, others, perhaps, are fading in age's spotlight. Trott has no obvious replacement in the team, chiefly because, although we are told his illness is nothing new, nobody thought to bring a player who could act, without hesitation, as a direct substitute for him. This week, in Adelaide, the wheels can either be bolted firmly back on to the wagon, or. conceivably, they may start to come off.

For England the pressure this week will be as intense as the South Australian heat. For Trott, the chill greyness of a Birmingham winter will be a strange but necessary kind of release from the stresses of his former existence.

It is to be hoped that he will return to England colours in the future. In the meantime he may be missed more in his absence than he was ever valued.

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