Born on April 22, 1981, Jonathan Trott is one of the first names to go on to the England team sheet today. Jaideep Vaidya glances through the four-year career of England’s No 3 who gives a sense of comfort to fans when at the crease.
Jonathan Trott is one of the most reliable No 3 batsmen plying their trade in world cricket today. A clean striker of the ball, Trott belongs to the category of batsmen who aren’t particularly pleasing to watch in today’s slam-bang era. True to his name, he likes to trot along his innings at his own leisurely pace and has a strike rate of under 50 in Test cricket.
It isn’t often that you will find Trott going for exuberance; he will leave that to the Kevin Pietersens of the team. Trott will delight you with a crisp cover-drive, his body shaped in an angle right out of the text book. But rest assured, you need not shield yourself for any grenades coming your way sitting in the crowd because he is unlikely to toss you any.
In fact, as recent as last month, Trott broke a long-standing record of having accumulated the highest number of runs in Test cricket without hitting a six. The previous record was held by India’s Vijay Manjrekar, who scored 3,208 runs in 55 Tests until his retirement in 1965. Almost 50 years later, Trott went past the legendary Indian batsman’s tally during the Test series against New Zealand in early 2013, and has scored 3,252 runs without any half-a-dozens to his name at the time of writing.
It’s rather odd that Trott would hold this unusual record, given that he hails from the same family tree as former England and Australia cricketer Albert Trott. This man, in 1899, was the first to ever hit a cricket ball over the Lord’s pavilion. It’s a record that stands to date.
Jonathan Trott was born in Cape Town, South Africa, to an English father and a South African mother (Unlike popular perception, Trott isn’t a migrant cricketer playing for England since he holds a British passport). Trott was immersed into sport since a very young age. “I probably had something of an abnormal childhood,” Trott told the BBC once, “because everything was about sport. At the weekends a lot of friends would go to the movies or go swimming at the beach, but I was always at the cricket club, the hockey pitch or the softball club. School took a bit of a backseat,” he said.
Trott was coached cricket by both his parents; his father owned a sports shop in Cape Town, while his mother was a hockey and softball international for South Africa, and chiselled her son’s hand-eye coordination.
On his own admission, Trott was quite a “reckless” batsman growing up, which is rather hard to believe given what we see on the pitch today. “I [got] bored quite easily, and I’d often try to hit the ball all round the ground. But as I got older, I began to realise what batting was all about. I watched a lot of great players to see what you need to be successful at the top level.”
Trott would soon feature in the South African Under-19 team where he shared the dressing room with players such as Graeme Smith and Jacques Rudolph. Then, he decided to move to England and joined the Warwickshire county. On debut for the county’s second XI in 2003, Trott piled on 245 runs. On his First-Class debut, he scored 134 against a strong Sussex team. Thus, it was no surprise when Trott went on to become the 18th Englishman to get a hundred on Test match debut.
What made the feat stand out, though, was the fact that it came in an Ashes-deciding Test match at The Oval in 2009. Trott scored 41 in the first innings after coming in at No 5 and was unfortunately run out in quite a bizarre fashion. Facing the part-time spinner Marcus North, Trott tried to clip the bowler down the leg, only for Simon Katich, positioned at short leg, to intervene and get a direct throw onto the stumps, with Trott still in his follow through and out of the crease. “A lot of players would have been happy with 40, but I was really upset because it was the most fun I’d ever had playing cricket — 35,000 people cheering every run,” Trott said.
Trott got another chance in the second innings. England were wobbling at 39 for three when he came in, albeit with a healthy lead of 211 runs. Trott combined with skipper Andrew Strauss and took the game away from the Australians. Even after Strauss (75) departed at 157 for four, Trott batted wonderfully with the tail, putting on 43 with Stuart Broad (29), 90 with Graeme Swann (63) and 40 with James Anderson (15 not out) before being caught at point on 119. Trott’s exploits helped England set a next-to-impossible target of 546 for the Australians, who fell short by almost 200 runs as England regained the Ashes.
Trott went on to cement his place in the England side and played a key part in their retaining the Ashes Down Under in the Australian summer of 2010-11 — for the first time in almost 25 years. Trott scored tons at Brisbane and Melbourne and then helped England knock India off their perch in the ICC Test Rankings in the summer of 2011.
Trott scored 1,325 runs at a staggering 66.25 in the calendar year 2010 and went on to be named the Cricketer of the Year by Wisden, ICC and ECB in 2011. While not many doubted his skills in the longer version, Trott’s style of play won him some critics in the shorter format. Trott responded with an aggregate of 422 runs in the 2011 World Cup — England’s highest tally — averaging 60.29 with five half-centuries in seven games. While this is being written, Trott’s Test and ODI averages are both above 50 and just decimals apart.
Trott is anything but a superstar. He’s your average bloke who loves playing his cricket and watching Tottenham Hotspurs at White Hart Lane. While he hasn’t been able to stay totally away from controversies (Which sportsman can, nowadays?), he still grabs far fewer tabloid headlines than most of his compatriots and counterparts. The only major controversy he found himself entangled in was when former England captain Michael Vaughan wrote in his book, Time to Declare, that Trott had celebrated with South African players after they beat England in a Test in 2008.
Trott was distraught when confronted about it and being labelled a back-stabber. He denied all the allegations, saying he was merely catching up with long-time friend Paul Harris after the match and said something like ‘Cheers, well done on your victory.’
“That was it. There was no high-fives or anything like that,” said Trott. “I knew I wouldn’t be seeing Paul again that summer because he wasn’t in the one-day squad so I wanted to wish him well. In fact, I’ve not seen him since. But Michael Vaughan walked past at the same time to go to his press conference. It was a misunderstanding, an unfortunate situation. I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
During England’s successful tour of India in 2012-13, Trott was again caught on the wrong side of certain players, this time from the opposition. While batting during his Test-saving and series-clinching hundred at Nagpur, Trott had whacked Ravindra Jadeja’s dead ball to the mid-wicket fence after the ball slipped out of the spinner’s hand. Trott’s actions did not win him any friends in Virat Kohli and Ravichandran Ashwin, who also caught the Englishman backing up too far and confronted him.
Trott was cool as ever in his response. He told All Out Cricket: “The Indians were under pressure in their own country and playing for that team with a billion people watching every game, and there were a few things going on out in the middle which were quite interesting. They try and get in your face a little bit, and when you get back in their face they whinge all the time, they don’t take it as well as they give it.”
Trott comes across as someone who lives and breathes the game and relishes a challenge. A fiercely competitive guy, he even beat Tottenham’s Gareth Bale in a free-kick and penalty-kick challenge (albeit the talismanic winger may just have left his A-game home to accommodate Trott). “You’ve got to be able to enjoy the battle,” said Trott. “Sometimes you can have a fast bowler taking aim at your head or your feet at 150kph, and you’ve got to be capable of dealing with it or you won’t survive.”
Trott may have a few records to his name, and might even go on to get a few more down the line the way he is going, but individual accolades count for little to the now 32-year-old. “What I’d like when my career is over is to have a great Test series win-percentage,” he told the Guardian. “If you are part of a successful team, you get remembered better, don’t you?”
(Jaideep Vaidya is a multiple sports buff and a writer at CricketCountry. He has a B.E. in Electronics Engineering, but that isn’t fooling anybody. He started writing on sports during his engineering course and fell in love with it. The best day of his life came on April 24, 1998, when he witnessed birthday boy Sachin Tendulkar pummel a Shane Warne-speared Aussie attack from the stands during the Sharjah Cup Final. A diehard Manchester United fan, you can follow him on Twitter @jaideepvaidya. He also writes a sports blog - The Mullygrubber )