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Baggy-green baby

What do you get when you combine a legendary Test cricketer's cap, a two-year-old and some pink zinc cream?

Philip Brown
Philip Brown
Master Brown gets an Australian Test cap  •  Philip Brown

Master Brown gets an Australian Test cap  •  Philip Brown

I've been taking cricket photographs for over 25 years and I'm often asked about my favourite photo. The photographs I'm most proud of usually have stories attached to them.
The boy batting on a Barbados beach early one morning and the lad bowling in Chittagong in 2011, which I've written about on this blog, are among my very favourites.
Another picture that springs to my mind is one that I took of my son just before the Ashes series in 1997. At the time I was working for the Daily Telegraph newspaper and covering a lot of cricket. I was asked to come up with a photograph to preview the five-match Test series and I thought of getting hold of two caps and shooting them on the field at Lord's with the pavilion in the background. It wasn't the most inspiring idea but the paper seemed fairly happy with it.
I obtained an England cap from the Lord's shop and my next task was to obtain an Aussie "baggy green" for the shoot. I covered an Australian warm-up match in Bristol and after play I drove to the team hotel and asked the team manager about borrowing a baggy green. He went off to have a look, and as I waited in the foyer, Steve Waugh, whom I knew quite well, came over for a chat.
Steve had arrived as an international cricketer, or so it seemed to me, about the same time as I came onto the scene. I remember photographing him and his twin brother Mark on their birthday in 1989. I had once borrowed Steve's Test-match whites for a press match that I was playing in and returned them to him covered in mud. I had also played golf with him at St Andrews and went to pieces after he applied some of his infamous mental disintegration techniques. Or perhaps he really meant it when he told his team-mates on a tee: "Phil is playing really well." No matter, my golf game crumbled from that moment.
So I knew Tugga. He asked me what I was waiting for in the foyer and I told him I was trying to get hold of a baggy green for a photograph. "I wouldn't even lend mine to my mum," I remember him saying. Oh well, I thought, and Steve wandered off while I waited for the manager to come back with some cap news. Eventually he returned and told me that the spare "baggies" were back in London. I thanked him for his efforts and headed for the door.
"Did you get one?" asked Steve, when I saw him.
Unbelievably, two minutes later I was walking back to my car holding Steve's personal baggy green, which I promised to get back to him before the Aussies played Derbyshire in their next warm-up match.
I travelled to Lord's the next morning for the double-cap photo and then back home for a well-earned afternoon of leisure. I would never have had the audacity to put Steve's cap on my head, but during the afternoon I convinced myself that it would be a great opportunity to photograph my two-year-old son wearing this already famous cricket object.
Out into the backyard we went and I set Rory up holding his plastic bat in front of his plastic stumps and carefully placed the prized item on his head. I prepared to take the photo when my wife raced out, saying something like, "You might as well do it properly", and she proceeded to smear some pink zinc cream on Rory's cheeks. A couple of clicks later and the shoot was done. I retrieved the cap and… oh my god, there was zinc cream on the cap! Steve Waugh's very own baggy green. I knew it was his most treasured possession (I don't think Steve had any children at this point) and I had damaged it.
Much rubbing of cloth took place that afternoon, and I probably wasn't too happy with (the then) Mrs Brown. I got as much of the very pink cream/paint off the baggy green as I could and placed the cap in an impressive-looking plastic bag. I took it to Derby and handed it back, vanishing quickly before any damage was noticed.
My mum lives in Narooma in New South Wales and when I visited her recently I noticed she had a print of this photo of Rory stuck on her fridge door. I've borrowed it for the time being so I can show it to you.
Steve Waugh's baggy green cap now resides in the Sydney Cricket Ground museum, and I'm told it is insured for half a million dollars. I wonder what it would have been worth without that pink stain.
I don't think Rory is going to receive his own baggy green cap as he gave up cricket about five years ago. He's a creative lad and I'm very proud of him and his sister, Emily. They have both had to put up with having a dad who has been away for some very large chunks of their lives, following cricket teams and tournaments. I hope they know that I love them both dearly.

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