Norfolk axe skipper Paul

Paul Bradshaw today spoke of his “amazement” after being told his five-year reign as Norfolk cricket captain was over. The 29-year-old opening bowler is to be replaced as skipper next season by current vice-captain Carl Rogers, the county's longest-serving player.

Paul Bradshaw today spoke of his “amazement” after being told his five-year reign as Norfolk cricket captain was over.

The 29-year-old opening bowler is to be replaced as skipper next season by current vice-captain Carl Rogers, the county's longest-serving player.

Rogers, 37 today, will be confirmed as captain at the annual meeting on December 8.

Norfolk chairman Keith Bray said the executive committee felt the time was right for a change - and they wanted Bradshaw to concentrate on regaining full fitness after being hit by injury problems.

But Bradshaw, captain since the 2003 season, said he was stunned by the news, given to him on Thursday night.

He said: “It came completely out of the blue when I was invited to a meeting with Keith Bray and David Browne, the vice-chairman. I believe it's an amazing decision.

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“I was told it was time for change but when you consider in the last two full seasons I've played, we've won the one-day competition and finished second in our division of the championship, I'd say it's a tough act to follow.”

Bradshaw said it was too early to say whether he would play for the county next year, but warned: “If I feel the same way I won't be playing for Norfolk.

“At the moment I am struggling to give 100 per cent to a club headed by people who have obviously not got a great deal of faith in me.”

Opening batsman Rogers was captain for most of the 2006 season when Bradshaw was out of action with a severe hamstring injury. Under his leadership, Norfolk won three Minor Counties Championship matches, were denied certain victory by rain in another, and finished fourth in the Eastern Division table.

This year, with Bradshaw in charge again, they finished second in the division, missing out on a place in the championship play-off final by five points after a heavy defeat in their final match away to Staffordshire.

Explaining the switch, Bray said: “The decision was made to enable Paul Bradshaw to concentrate on regaining his full match fitness without the strains and stresses of the captaincy. “We as a committee are most appreciative of Paul's contribution as captain, but feel that a change in any sport can be the right thing to do at the right time - and for Norfolk County Cricket Club that time is now.

“In my opinion, Paul is the best opening bowler in Minor Counties cricket and we are looking forward to him performing great things in that role under Carl's leadership.

“We are certainly not closing the door on his possible return to the captaincy in the future.

“More than anyone I can think of, Carl Rogers is worthy of captaining his county, and I congratulate him on an honour well deserved.”

Rogers, with 134 championship games behind him for Norfolk in 18 seasons, said: “It's an honour to be asked to do the job after all this time. I'm getting towards the end of my career and when Keith rang me I was a bit surprised because I thought maybe my chance had gone.

“I enjoyed it last time and we had some good results.

“It added a little more to the game for me because you can get a bit jaded and set in your ways.

“I only got the call on Thursday so I haven't had the chance to sit down with Keith and Chris Brown, the coach, and decide what we're going to do in terms of things like pre-season preparation or a professional next year.”

Rogers made his Norfolk debut in 1990 and his total of 8,661 championship runs includes 17 centuries and 53 half-centuries. He won the Wilfred Rhodes Trophy as Minor Counties cricket's top batsman in 2005.

Bradshaw, who made his Norfolk debut as a 17-year-old in 1995, has a combined total of 256 wickets in championship and one-day cricket. He was appointed captain in 2003 after Paul Newman stood down and he led Norfolk to victory over Wiltshire in the MCCA Knockout Trophy final in 2005, making them the first county to win the one-day competition four times.