Evening Standard

Looking ahead: Jonathan Trott surveys the scene at Edgbaston and promises to give England 100 per cent by 'training hard and playing easy'. Image courtesy of Evening Standard

Rightly or wrongly Jonathan Trott has the reputation as an aggressive, cocky batsman who, in the manner of Kevin Pietersen, deserted his native South Africa for England.

His Test average of 61.53 is second only to Don Bradman’s 99.94, he is cemented in at No3 for England after being part of their Ashes-winning team and regularly winds up the opposition.

But Trott, who is sitting in front of me in Edgbaston’s cricket centre, is determined to correct any false impressions. “It’s a bit unfair to think of stats like my average,” he argues. “It’s a good start but I’ve only played a handful of games.

“I’m a bit wary of saying ‘cemented’ in the team as well. A year back, Paul Collingwood was one of the most cemented players England had because of the South Africa and Bangladesh tours and winning the Twenty20 World Cup. It’s a tricky, tough game with ups and downs.”

The Warwickshire right-hander is equally keen to explain that he does not set out to upset opponents. Last year, much was made of how long he took to mark his guard; some felt that he was digging a trench at the crease.

“It’s a little bit abnormal but sometimes in county cricket, if it’s a slow wicket, you bat outside your crease, so that’s why I mark a long line,” he says. “The way cricket is scrutinised, as soon as you do something slightly different, it’s made a lot bigger.”

But, perhaps, he is most determined to change the perception that he, like Pietersen, left South Africa because of some fundamental difference with the way Nelson Mandela’s rainbow nation runs its cricket.

Trott was only nine when, in 1991, Mandela walked free. “Obviously, when I first went to school in Cape Town, I didn’t really know about apartheid,” he says.

“For me, the decision to come to England was mainly for cricketing reasons, nothing personal or political.

“It wasn’t based on the quota system. I have no problems going back to South Africa and I’m very appreciative of the upbringing and opportunities I had.”

In 2003, as a 20-year-old, Trott was playing for Western Province, having been in the South African Under-15 and Under-19 sides. “Eric Simons [the WP coach] said to me, ‘Your way forward is to play cricket in England.’ I still had a year left on my contract but Western Province let me go, no qualms. Everything happened so smoothly.”

It helped that Warwickshire, for whom he signed, had strong South African connections. This home away from home helped Trott to make remarkable progress.

On his Championship debut in May 2003, against Sussex, he scored a century, only missing a 100 before lunch by three runs. His debut for England at The Oval in 2009 was even more remarkable. For the first time since 1896, a debutant was playing in an Ashes decider. Trott scored a 100 as England won back the Urn.

Yet that is not his favourite innings. That honour belongs to the 226 he scored last May against Bangladesh at Lord’s.

“I’d had a pretty tough winter,” he explains. “The satisfaction of performing well in international cricket is like a drug. As soon as it gets taken away you want it again.

“When that doesn’t happen quite quickly, you start chasing the game and trying to do things differently, which you wouldn’t do if you were calm and just letting things come to you.”

His 184 against Pakistan at Lord’s later in the summer was even more crucial. With England rocking at 102 for seven, Trott and Stuart Broad put on a world record 332 for the eighth wicket, with Broad becoming only the third English No9 to score a Test hundred.

England went on to win by an innings. But that was the match which saw the scourge of match-fixing return.

Pakistan bowlers were found guilty of deliberately bowling no-balls. The International Cricket Council have since banned Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Aamer, who are facing criminal charges in this country.

Trott was at the receiving end of one of the no-balls Aamer bowled.

“It was a lot quicker than the other balls he delivered,” he says. “I remember going to the non-striker and saying, ‘Jeepers Matt [Prior], that was quick.’

“Then I looked at the bowling crease and thought, ‘No wonder.’ He was over the line by nearly a foot.”

What Trott cannot get over is the effect those no-balls had. “It was terrible,” he says. “After the Lord’s Test was finished, I had one of the worst feelings ever.

“We had won and I had been in a world record stand. If people go on tours of Lords, they are going to see Broady and my names on the honours board. But no-one is going to speak about that. All they will remember are the allegations against the individuals from the Pakistan side.”

Then, just before the fourth one-day international at Lord’s, Trott was involved in a physical confrontation at the nets with Wahab Riaz. He is alleged to have asked the Pakistani how much he was getting from the bookies.

“Yeah, something like that happened,” he admits. “But it was just a misunderstanding. There was a situation that I obviously look back on and regret. I wish I’d handled it differently. But, as an individual and as a team, we’d had enough. The cricket was not getting spoken about and it was all a little bit much.”

But, if last summer was a nightmare, retaining the Ashes with Andrew Strauss’s team in Australia 3-1 was like a dream. “The preparation was the key,” he says. “It was ideal and a big thing for me personally. We were there for a month before the series.

“Sometimes you go into an Ashes series and you are not quite ready. By the time you get into form, the series might be over.

“I was not feeling too good when we started the tour. In the warm-up games, I started to feel a bit of form coming back. In the First Test at Brisbane, I felt in good rhythm [Trott scored 135 not out in the second innings] and my tour picked up from then.”

In all Trott scored 445 runs in the series, averaging 89, but the preparations for the ensuing World Cup, where England were embarrassed by Ireland and Bangladesh in the group stages and then humbled Sri Lanka in the quarter-final, were not ideal.

“Seven ODI’s in Australia was tough after a long Ashes tour and two Twenty20s,” Trott says. “We came back for three days, then flew out to the World Cup. It was a little bit harsh. That is too much cricket. The thing is we’d either bat well then bowl poorly or bowl well and bat badly. We never got a proper game together.”

While Trott top-scored in the World Cup, bowlers like Jimmy Anderson, who had been central to England’s Ashes triumph, failed on the subcontinent.

“For batters, it is a lot easier. It’s more difficult for bowlers. ODI wickets, especially on the subcontinent, can be quite challenging. If you come up against good teams on flat wickets you can get punished. Your confidence can go.”

But, in English conditions this summer, Trott has no worries about England’s bowlers.

“Our bowling attack is very strong,” he says. “The selectors will have a tough job for the first couple of Tests given the way Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan have thrown their hats into the ring. I know batting in the nets against Jimmy is not very nice. He is one of the hardest and Broad, Tremlett, Bresnan and Shahzad all present different problems.”

If anything, he sees the summer as more of a challenge for the batsmen.

“With Colly stepping down, it’s a bit more responsibility on the guys at the top of the order. Sri Lanka are going to be tricky with their pace bowlers and spinners and so are India. Their batting is right up there. We will have to be at the top of our game.”

But what will give England strength, Trott believes, is the leadership of skipper Strauss and coach Andy Flower. “They’re very strong willed, self-motivated and inspiring,” he says.

“Straussy doesn’t get flustered and is very good the way he puts things across. Andy is the opposite. He is always challenging me. If I get 100, he’ll be in the nets, running up and throwing bouncers at me and trying to get under my skin to do even better.

“You get that feeling from him he’s never happy with what he’s achieved. He’s already plotting how this summer we’re going to be No1. That’s his ultimate dream.”

However, Trott does not dream of playing in the IPL, the game’s greatest money spinner. “After such a long winter, I’m happy not to be involved,” he says.

“Would I like to play? Yes and no. It looks a very good product and a spectacle but you can’t be fresh and give 100 per cent for England. But, if you want to earn top dollar, then that’s the way you’re going to have to do it.”

He will stick to the philosophy of Ashley Giles, Warwickshire’s director of coaching and part-time England selector: train hard, play easy.

“It’s like when you walk through those exam doors. If you haven’t studied, you worry what the exam is going to throw at you. If you’ve prepared, they can throw anything at you and you will be able to deal with it.”

Happily married to the Warwickshire press officer, Abi Dollery, and with a six-month-old daughter, Trott has even less fear of failing any cricket exam. Indeed he says: “Abi can say when I am going to get runs, don’t ask me how.”


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