English cricket March 10, 2013

Nasser's tearful resignation

I remember that it was a particularly silly day at Edgbaston in 2003 when England played South Africa. Towards the end of the day I was asked if I was going to cover the Nasser Hussain press conference.

© Philip Brown

Sitting on the side of a ground photographing sport is usually quite fun. It's a job and even a career for some and it can be an enjoyable experience spending long days with some like-minded photographers having a few laughs.

Many silly games have been invented to pass the time during long Test matches. I wonder if the ICC would crack down on photographers if they knew that they were having a sweep and betting on the exact weight of snapper Ross Kinnaird? Is that breaking ICC regulations? Yes, I think it probably is. I'm proud to say I won that competition that day after I managed to find a set of bathroom scales and brought them to our position in the ground during a break in play. By the way, I hope you've lost a couple of pounds, Ross.

Another game "Punch-a-clock" did not have particularly complex rules and regulations. If it was the "top of the hour" (something o'clock) you punched your neighbour's arm as hard as you could. Basically, that was it. I don't think it's going to catch on at the United Nations general assembly in New York but it sure makes you an expert at timekeeping.

Another day "Jaffa Cake Russian Roulette" was invented. 48 Jaffa cakes were placed in a large plastic bag. 24 original, aka orange, along with 12 lemon-lime and 12 that were blackcurrant flavour. Don't go looking for all these flavours now as I'm pretty sure with the economic downturn we are back to just the one flavour of Jaffa cake. Oh, yes in the early noughties all was right with the world (well almost) and the range of flavours was nearly endless ….. well, there were three flavours for a time anyway.

I'm aware that jaffa cakes are mostly consumed in the United Kingdom, so I have obtained some very basic facts for readers in other parts of the globe off something called the internet for anyone looking for explanation of this most pleasing of snack.

"The most common form of Jaffa Cakes are circular, 21⁄2 inches (64 mm) in diameter and have three layers: a sponge base, a layer of orange flavoured jelly and a coating of chocolate. Jaffa Cakes come in packs of 12, 24 or 36."

Anyway back to "Jaffa Cake Russian Roulette" or "JCRR". Each competitor took it in turns to choose one from the bag and take a bite. If it was orange or lemon-lime flavoured they were able to continue in the competition, but if it was blackcurrant they were 'out' and were subjected to some very aggressive arm punching.

There are some photographers who are too sensible to accept invitations to join in some of these games so don't be put off by a career in sports photography just because you don't like physical violence. No-one is forced to play.

I include all the preceding foolhardy game chat for a reason as I remember that it was a particularly silly day at Edgbaston in 2003 when England played South Africa. Many wind-ups and games had taken place during the day and one photographer who we'll call Jim Keogh was persuaded to ring his picture desk to see if they wanted the sixth day of the Test match covered. Worryingly the newspaper said 'yes' so neither the photographer or the picture editors knew that a Test match is currently limited to five days maximum. Oh, how we laughed!

Towards the end of the day I was asked if I was going to cover the Nasser Hussain press conference. I was told that Hussain was about to resign as England captain. Oh, I could so easily tell that this was a wind-up. It was so, so obvious. My colleagues had been plotting and were trying to trap me and this was a really transparent attempt to trick me.

I was so sure that it was a 'wind-up' that I announced that I would pay a colleague Tom "two hundred pounds for every photo that he got of Nasser Hussain as he announced his retirement as England Test match captain in the following days newspapers". That would prove to them that I hadn't been taken in by their stupid ruse.

Very soon after my declaration my phone rang and the Daily Telegraph were checking whether I knew about the upcoming Nasser Hussain press conference? I swallowed something hard and jagged. This could become a very, very expensive day.

I shot the press conference in which Nasser Hussain fought back some tears and resigned as captain. Five years later I was at Loughborough as housewives' favourite Michael Vaughan cried when he resigned as captain. It seems to go with the territory.

After packing up my gear I then had a long drive back home to contemplate my stupidity and my big mouth. I spoke to a friend that we'll call Russell during the drive (hands free of course) and he gave me some brilliant news. He told me that money used in Lebanon was also called 'pounds' and that the exchange rate was particularly favourable.

The next day was spent in Edgeware road, London, trying to track down some of the elusive Lebanese pounds and eventually I obtained about ten thousand of these pounds for just a few British pounds. Very relieved I paid my debt off in full to Tom and I think that I learnt a valuable lesson.

This post is dedicated to my friend Graham Chadwick, a great snapper and also the best company to sit next to on the side of a sports ground.

An Australian freelance cricket photographer based in England, Philip Brown has photographed over 150 Test matches around the world