March 17, 2009
Sitting comfortably on 611/5 in their opening match of the season, and with his skipper waiting for him in the middle on 250, the ebullient Trego strode towards the square in relaxed and confident fashion. It wasn’t a feeling that was about to last.
“As soon as I got to the crease, Justin gave me a look that can only be described as a ‘death stare’,” recalls Trego. “He shook his finger at me, looked me in the eyes, and told me with serious intent that, ‘We are not done yet’. At first I thought he was a lunatic, but as I went to take my guard I thought to myself, hang on this guy is a Test legend: he’s 36, he’s on 250, and he is still as desperate for runs as ever. I realised at that moment finally what batting was all about. You need to be hungry and greedy for runs. And the lesson sunk in.”
Trego walked back to the Taunton pavilion 130 balls later with the same amount of runs to his name, after blasting a century that helped Somerset reach their highest-ever first-class total of 850/7, against Middlesex. Langer himself had finally succumbed on a score of 315.
It was a flying start to the new season for Trego, and indeed for his Somerset side, who went on to enjoy one of the most successful campaigns in the county’s recent history, securing the LV County Championship Division Two title – as well as earning promotion to the top flight of the Pro40 competition.
With 814 runs at an average of 54, and over 30 first-class wickets, it was a defining season for Trego, who was also Somerset’s leading wicket-taker in the one-day arena. It was such a successful campaign, in fact, that, after a rollercoaster career, Trego is in contention for a place at the England Academy and, possibly, international recognition at the highest level.
It is all a far cry from the position Trego found himself in three years ago, when the prospect of playing first-class cricket again, let alone international cricket, seemed like a hopeless, fading dream.
Just four seasons after making his first-class debut, Trego, a big-hitting batter
and useful change bowler, found himself out of the professional ranks with a reputation within the game as someone who was talented but unable, or unwilling, to fulfil his full potential.
Trego spent his weekdays toiling away on a building site in his hometown of Weston-super-Mare. To supplement his income, he made 350-mile round trips to Kent once, sometimes twice, a week, to keep goal in front of 250 or so diehards for semi-pro football club Margate.
“When I was out of the professional game in 2004 and for the first half of 2005 I laid awake at night thinking I’d never play first-class cricket again,” says Trego. “I was absolutely gutted. It was killing me.”
As a precociously talented teenager, Trego had the cricketing world at his feet. At 15, just three years after taking up the sport, he was smashing centuries for Somerset’s junior teams, and forging a reputation as a promising medium-fast swing bowler. Julian Wyatt and Peter Robinson saw the raw potential and fast-tracked him into the Somerset 2nd XI – and by the age of 18 Trego was deemed ready for first-class cricket at Taunton.
Big names such as Michael Atherton, Robin Smith, Sourav Ganguly and Rahul Dravid soon fell victim to Trego’s bowling, and shortly after making the breakthrough he was selected for the England Under-19 tour of Sri Lanka alongside the likes of Ian Bell and Monty Panesar, scoring 90 on his U-19 Test debut.
Comparisons soon began to be made with a Somerset all-rounder of a previous generation. But the tentative ‘new Botham’ tag never sat comfortably. “I had a bit of a blast onto the scene,” says Trego, as he sits at home, occasionally distracted by the playful antics of his two children, Amelia 6, and Davis, 2. “I did well and took quite a few wickets. I tended to get some really famous scalps. The local press started saying I was the next Beefy, which felt like a great honour, but it was a massive ticket to put on a kid’s head.
“When things began to go wrong people would be all negative about me and say I wasn’t in Botham’s class – which in reality was true, but it didn’t stop me feeling as if I was a failure.”
Blessed with model good looks and a keen follower of fashion, Trego has always stood out. Add to that an outwardly confident persona and it should come as no surprise that question marks soon began to be raised about his character, once his initial success slowed down.
“I think because I came from a footballing family I raised a few eyebrows at the outset because I played the game a bit differently,” he says. “I’d be vocal in the field and charge in at the batsmen. I was pretty boisterous as a young pup, and I played the game real hard. People weren’t sure how to take that. I was quite cocky and was never fazed by reputations.
“I’ve always been a lively character who likes his clothes but some people had narrower minds, saw me all dressed up in my fashionable gear and took one impression of me – that I was a Big Time Charlie, not interested in cricket. That was a wrong assumption but it did me no favours.
“The first season and a half with Somerset was OK but I was dropped suddenly and never got back in properly. I had a year left on my contract but didn’t want to stay if I wasn’t a regular and told the club I wanted to leave. Looking back, I was ever so punchy and in your face, but that’s just how I was. I didn’t know any better.”
With his wife and daughter to support, Trego needed to act quickly, and he joined Kent on a one-year deal in 2003. But it was to be a year to forget; he made just one first class appearance. It was about this time that he began to self-destruct.
“It was gut-wrenching leaving my family behind, and once I realised I didn’t fit in at Kent I began to rebel. I had chances to do things I shouldn’t have done away from the cricket pitch and I didn’t do myself any favours. I was frustrated and if ever there was an opportunity not to do the right thing I’d often do it. Instead of knuckling down and doing extra practice I thought, ‘Bugger it’, and would go and have a few beers instead. I admit that at that time I wasn’t as dedicated as I should have been. I got the balance wrong and I learned from it. They called me a show pony, arrogant, you name it. But the reality was that I was feeling lost. Inside, I didn’t even know if I was any good at cricket.”
Devoid of confidence and on the cricket scrapheap at the age of just 23, Trego went back to his roots, and to the local club that gave him his first opportunity at the age of 14, Uphill Castle Cricket Club.
With new-found freedom and a lack of pressure, Trego averaged over 100 during his 2003 summer there, setting up a chance to impress for Herefordshire in May 2004. A call-up to the Minor Counties side soon followed, and after scoring 91 off 46 balls against Middlesex 2nd XI in June 2005, he began to realise he might still have something to offer at a higher level.
“Simon Kellett, who’d played six years for Yorkshire, was opening the batting for us. He dragged me aside after the knock against Middlesex and urged me not to give up on the full-time game. He then took it upon himself to mention my name to all the county coaches. Within a couple of weeks, Jason Pooley at Middlesex offered me a contract for the second half of the season. I was buzzing. I owe Simon so much for giving me back the belief that I could make it.”
fter some solid performances for Middlesex, including a career-best 6/59 at Trent Bridge, his home county once again came calling, offering a two-year deal at Taunton. Trego hasn’t looked back.
Langer’s influence has changed Trego’s whole outlook on the game, and brought him up to the level he always threatened to reach. “When JL took over we became more professional in all aspects,” he says. “The two of us just clicked straight away. He saw I was a scrapper and I think he liked that. In many ways I am quite Australian in my cricket thinking and beliefs so, although we have different personalities, we are not too dissimilar.
“Just before the start of the season JL emailed me to say I could be the X factor in Somerset having success. To hear that from a legend like him was unbelievable. That gave me so much confidence to get down the gym, get in the nets, and prepare like I had never prepared before for a season.
“Since then we’ve had so many talks about my game, about life, about technical aspects. It’s been a tidal wave of improvement. I have the fire back into my belly with bat and ball. I’m bowling a yard quicker and have the confidence to play my shots freely now. It’s not just me – all of our standards have risen.”
Trego smiles broadly as I ask him to name the highlights of his season. The double promotion, hitting Danish Kaneria for 22 in one over to help Somerset land the title, hitting 140 with Ian Blackwell off just 12 overs to set up a win against Gloucestershire… there are plenty.
When I ask him about England, a more determined look comes over his face. “Statistically, I’m ranked 21 in the MVP ratings at the PCA: I’m one of the only players in the top 25 not to have been looked at internationally so far, so I hope I have a chance,” he says.
“No other all-rounder has matched my figures this year and on top of that I have a real eye-of -the-tiger feeling that this is the ideal time for me to be looked at. I know that I have a lot of improvements to make but I do feel I’ve earned the right to at least considered for the Academy.
“If I was suddenly thrust into the England team I’d have the confidence to give a good account of myself. I realise that I’m far from being the finished article. But I’d love the chance to see how I do. If it doesn’t happen this winter I’ll come back next year. And when I do, I won’t knock on the selectors’ window – I’ll be beating it down!”
Trego at a glance
12 June 1981 Born Weston-super-Mare
April 2000 First-class debut for Somerset
August 2000 Plays for England U-19s v Sri Lanka, hitting 90 on ‘Test’ debut
October 2002 Joins Kent but plays only one first-class match in 2003. Drifts out of game at the end of the season.
June 2005 Smacks career-reviving 91 from 46 balls for Minor Counties Under-25s against Middlesex 2nd XI
July 2005 Signs short-term contract with Middlesex – plays seven games.
April 2006 Returns to Somerset but has mixed first season: scores three hundreds but fails to reach 600 in 20 innings
April 2007 Begins best season of his career, with over 800 runs and 33 wickets