A PHOTOGRAPH in this month’s edition of The Cricketer magazine took my eye.
It was a picture of “Team England” prior to the second Test v Sri Lanka at Chester-le-Street.
What was striking about it was that 13 of the 25 men assembled on the Riverside outfield were in blue tracksuits as opposed to cricketing whites.
These were the various coaches and backroom staff.
Some of the faces were instantly recognisable.
There was head coach Trevor Bayliss, sat between captain Alastair Cook and vice-captain Joe Root.
Assistant coach Paul Farbrace, the former Yorkshire second XI coach, was sporting his customary smile, as was Danny Reuben, the newly appointed head of team communications after three years at Yorkshire in a similar position.
Mark Ramprakash, the batting coach, needed no introduction – nor fast bowling coach Ottis Gibson, the former West Indies player.
Phil Neale, the long-time operations manager, was another familiar face – not least because I grew up watching him playing at left-back for Lincoln City FC in between his cricketing commitments for Worcestershire.
After that, however, I was more than a little grateful for the accompanying extended caption.
Mark Wotherspoon was introduced as the England team doctor, and while I obviously knew of the former Notts and England wicketkeeper Bruce French – and indeed once bowled him out with a googly in a spin bowling competition in 1989 (more of which, perhaps, in a future thrilling column) – I would not otherwise have picked him out in a crowd.
Craig de Weymarn was a new one on me as the team physio, as was strength and conditioning coach Phil Scott and team analyst Rupert Lewis.
I knew that Reg Dickason was security manager (although had never seen his face) – ditto Mark Saxby, the massage therapist. There was even mention of another fellow – David Young, the team psychologist, who was not present when the picture was taken.
As the author of the piece, Huw Turbervill, pointed out: “It is difficult to see how a player could be given more backing.”
Turbervill also remembered speaking to the late Sir Alec Bedser about the England tour to Australia in 1946-47.
Looking back on it in 2010, Bedser reflected: “There were 16 players, a manager, a baggage man, and we had a local physio.
“I laugh seeing the people out there now – there are more hangers-on than players!”
Quite what the late, great Brian Close would have made of the photograph is not difficult to imagine.
The former Yorkshire and England captain routinely referred to backroom staff in less than complimentary fashion, once telling me that the players of his era “didn’t do any bloody warm-ups or that sort of rubbish”.
“I mean, Fred (Trueman) used to warm up by smoking a pipe and by twirling his arms over a few times,” he added.
“Nowadays, they’ve got these bloody trick cyclists and God knows who else. In fact, there’s more bloody trick cyclists than players.”
If The Cricketer magazine is on sale in heaven, Mr Close would be entitled to a wry smile while drawing on an e-cigarette.
“There, I bloody knew it,” I can hear him saying, “13 bloody trick cyclists and only 12 players.”