It was late morning, and Alastair Cook was lounging around in his room. Unusually, he was on his own, as the captain was popular among the squad and he was, more often than not, accompanied by Joe Root or one of the other batsmen. Otherwise, he’d be having a coffee with Andy Flower and Graham Gooch, discussing recent performances or changes to the squad. Occasionally, he’d be playing Xbox with his teammates, or on a rare walk in one of the nearby parks. But that certain morning, Cooky happened to be on his own. There wasn’t really anything to do, as the preparations for the next match weren’t to start until the next day, so Ali was, to be honest, quite thankful when there was a quiet knock at his door.
Outside, the two guys awaiting their captain’s reponse were significantly more nervous than they’d been the night before. Broady’s hands were shaking as he struggled to keep on his feet with nerves, and Finny was wondering why he’d even thought it’d been a good idea in the first place. Life had been as normal as it could get on tour in the past few weeks, and suddenly four of England’s bowlers were about to turn the situation on its head. Two of them were towering outside of Cooky’s hotel room, probably nearly shitting themselves with fear, and completely uncertain about the reactions that awaited them.
When Ali answered the door, he wasn’t quite sure he’d expected Steven Finn and Stuart Broad to be stood awkwardly outside, maybe a bit too close to each other. Whoever his mind had told him it’d be, whether it was simply Joe coming along for a chat, or Trotty asking for a net, he hadn’t considered any of the bowlers. Sure enough, he was good mates with Broady after many years in the England side together, but he hadn’t spent a lot of time with Finny, they were usually practicing different things, or Steve wasn’t even playing. All the same, Cooky grinned at them and gestured for them to come inside. He’d already noticed the aura of anxiety shadowing the two players, and he was slightly confused by their uncharacteristic, ungraceful movements and quiet, muted voices. Still, he wasn’t one to judge, as Swanny loved to take the piss out of his ‘serious face’ and whatever the hell he found funny that day. Oh how you’ve gotta love Swanny.
‘So, what did you guys want?’ Ali asked, once the three of them were settled on his sofa with cups of tea.
Cooky’s room was a lot different to Jadey’s, for example, or Broady’s. Being the captain, it was about twice the size of everyone else’s, which is why Ali’s room was mainly used for team Xbox sessions. He would’ve been completely fine with a normal room, but Ali had to admit that the large, spacious room made the uncomforts of touring the world (of which there weren’t many) almost nonexistent. On the opposite side of the room, two glass doors led to a beautiful balcony with an iconic view of the city. There were many reasons why Cooky’s room was hardly ever empty, and that was one of them. For the most part, it was just a generic hotel suite, but there were two framed photos on a bedside table that made the room unmistakably that of Alastair Nathan Cook. The first was of him, and his wife Alice, on their wedding day. The second showed a beaming young Ali, at his debut in Nagpur. And if you knew Cooky, you’d know these two photos accompanied him wherever in the world he went, which does say a great deal about his personality.
‘Well...’ began Broady, swallowing the lump in his throat. He’d agreed that he’d be the one to say it, because at even the thought of it Finny was shaking, and Broady had always been the more confident one, but now he was regretting that. Massively. ‘We’ve got something to tell you, Ali. I’d don’t know how you’re going to take this, but we think it’d be better if you knew...’ Before he’d actually gotten around to saying what they’d arrived to say, Stu’s voice trailed off, and he uncrossed and re-crossed his legs awkwardly. Leaning forward in interest, Cooky ushered his teammate to carry on, but his carefree expression didn’t hide the worry creased on his forehead.
Cooky wasn’t used to the team coming to him with their secrets or problems, unless it was Joe Root. Most of them were paired up with mates or in groups, and they all trusted each other. That wasn’t to say they didn’t all get on, because they were one of the closest England sides in many years. Unusually close, as Swanny had reported in his video diaries a couple of years back. But Ali was only used to hearing Rooty’s dilemmas, so he was a bit confused, and slightly anxious. His eyes flickered over Stuart Broad, a teammate of his for many years now. Broady’s arm rested on Finny’s leg, and there wasn’t a hint of unease between the two bowlers. Ali was dragged out of his world of thought when Broady coughed lightly, and then dropped the bombshell.