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From Gower to Root

Ben Stokes and Joe Root effect a salute Philip Brown

The off season in England in February - nothing happening, so it is time for some long-lens polishing and checking out road closures before the upcoming summer of cricket. But what is this? It's a press release from the ECB. The king has gone!

I was fortunate enough to be in Chennai for the fifth and final Test between India and England just before Christmas. It was indeed an eventful trip to that city for a number of reasons. In no particular order:

  • I was made to wear a photographers bib that smelt so much of petrol I was wary of going within 50 metres of any smoker.

  • I was kidnapped by a tuk-tuk driver who only let me out after I threatened to park his tuk-tuk in a place where a three-wheeled vehicle should never be driven (a top ESPNcricinfo journalist can verify this tale actually).

  • I saw a lovely, beautiful, relaxing and very quiet hotel bar transformed into an acid house rave event in three minutes.

  • I ate the most expensive steak known to man and beast and actually still had to cook it myself.

That's India for you. Expect the unexpected, but believe me you won't get the unexpected events that you didn't expect. (An attempt to baffle you and keep you on this page for even longer.)

Yes, where was I? A press release arrived. Alastair Cook had stepped down from the England Test captaincy. Not entirely unexpected news. Okay, sorry for using the word "unexpected". It won't happen again.

To see Alastair or "Cookie" after the final Test in Chennai was to view a pretty unhappy man. To focus on and shoot Alastair for ten minutes with a 600mm lens attached as he waited for the presentations was quite hard to do, but I knew there were no smokers in the vicinity, so it was probably the safest place for me to be at that time wearing that disgusting bib.

I've actually seen many England captains come and go during my career. In 1989, David Gower was in charge as his team got spanked 4-0 by Australia's "worst ever touring team". Gower famously walked out of a press conference at Lord's to catch a performance of Anything Goes, starring Elaine Paige and Bernard Cribbins. I've always been a Cribbins fan myself, so I find it a perfectly reasonable thing to do. We are talking about Bernard Cribbins, voice of the Wombles, the star of Fawlty Towers and the classic "railway children" film.

Graham Gooch and Mike Atherton were the next to take on the job, but I fear they may have been warned off trips to the theatre during Test matches.

I remember Alec Stewart being revealed as the new captain at Lord's around 1999, and he put the attending photographers at ease by stating, "Don't worry lads, I've got loads of time to pose for photos." Fast-forward 15 minutes and his demeanour had changed completely. "For f**k's sake, that's enough," he puffed.

When Nasser Hussain and Michael Vaughan left their captaincy jobs, they both cried, but hold on, there is nothing wrong with that. When I thought I'd lost my job at the sports centre where my functions included emptying bins, cleaning seats and occasionally cleaning a massive statue, I had tears in my eyes too.

Let's get back to the England captaincy. Last Tuesday at Lord's we had Andrew Strauss, a former England captain, also known affectionately as "Straussy", talking through his meetings with Cookie and what he thought of the former captain and his legacy. The following day Cookie was at Lord's in person to explain why he had left to post and what he planned for the future. Batting seemed to be the crux of it. Photographers even had a couple of minutes to shoot him leaning on a balcony.

This week and another ECB press release arrived. A decision had been made. The new Test captain was to be unveiled at Headingley. "Unveiled"? Now that sounded exciting. I visualised a sheet being pulled back to reveal the next boss of the Test team. In reality, no such luck.

England's 80th Test captain is the boy wonder and probably the most polite man to ever put on cricket whites. Yorkshire's own Joe Root is the next man in this high-pressured job of being the England Test captain. He is also called "Rooty", or even sometimes "Roooooooooooooooooooot". His promotion was expected. Let's not go back there.

The vice-captain is Ben Stokes. Okay, fine, you guessed it: "Stokesy".

Here they are together in a shot from The Oval in 2015 after England won that Ashes series. They are both great guys. I really do wish them well. Now, where's my medication?

Nikon D4 24-70mm lens @24mm 200ASA 1/1000th sec f5