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August 12, 2010

Samir Chopra

Aggression or just plain petulance?

Samir Chopra
Stuart Broad cut a frustrated figure all day as he grew increasingly agitated by  Pakistan's resistance, England v Pakistan, 2nd Test, Edgbaston, August 8, 2010
Time to grow up  © Getty Images
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I'm not huge fan of coaches, and I have said so on this blog. Part of the reason is the mind-numbingly inane remarks that pepper most of their conversations with the press. After reading Duncan Fletcher's pronouncements on the latest tantrum thrown by Stuart Broad, I think I've been entirely justified in the snappiness of my remarks (ok, he is an ex-coach, but you catch my drift).

Consider for instance, Fletcher's claim that, in throwing the ball at Haider, "Broad was responding to frustration, not pressure. They are completely different things." This sounds like a very sophisticated distinction but in point of fact, it's a sophistical one. Broad was frustrated precisely because he was under pressure. Sportsmen, mediocre ones especially, have a tendency to get frustrated when they are under pressure from their opponents. That's why they slam rackets, curse umpires, or pick fights with spectators and/or other players. It's a sign of weakness, not aggression and it is what distinguishes the greats from the also-rans.

Even more confusing in some ways is Fletcher's suggestion that we not judge Broad on the basis of his on-field displays; that indeed, a "true" picture of his character will be better formed by having access to his dressing-room demeanour. This is again, a vacuous claim couched in the garb of a seemingly holistic approach. Why spectators, who only have access to a player's public performances, and who are engaged in critiquing a player's publicpersona should be be concerned with a player's dressing-room behavior is beyond me. We are critiquing a player's public behavior, aren't we?

I personally don't care if Stuart Broad doesn't call his mum every week, or helps old ladies across the street, or sends his yearly earnings to Oxfam. I'd simply like him to stop behaving, on a cricket field, like a school-kid who keeps begging for six of the best. But the match referees haven't obliged until now, and even then, given his recidivist inclinations, "Broady" got away lightly.

But it is not all Duncan Fletcher's fault. The biggest culprit is the partial acceptance in the cricketing world of the incoherent claim that rudeness, petulance, and plain old immaturity are somehow equivalent to aggression. So long as that piece of idiocy continues to make the rounds, we'll continue to be treated to the spectacle of grown men throwing their toys out of the pram.

Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He tweets here

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Posted by chris on (September 1, 2010, 18:33 GMT)

Why is there so much veneration of CHRIS Broad? He was certainly one of my least favourite players - and I lived in Bristol and watched Gloucestershire when he played for them. Stuart may have been silly on occasions, but he's a much better player than his father.

Posted by af on (August 22, 2010, 21:56 GMT)

To say that "indeed, a “true” picture of his character will be better formed by having access to his dressing-room demeanour" is tantamount to saying that it's OK to have a nasty behaviour toward the opposition as long as you are well mannered in the dressing room. What should one call it, hypocrisy or plain arrogance?

Posted by Cliff on (August 17, 2010, 16:01 GMT)

Brian I am a west indian and Holding and co were my cricketing heroes. Yes it was Croft who ran into umpire Fred Goodall but in that same series Holding did kick out the stumps.You must look it up because it was a beautiful kick indeed.

If it is not racism at best it comes off as if some are "entitled" to privaleges in cricket more than others.

Posted by Sean O'Sullivan on (August 17, 2010, 12:37 GMT)

I'm afraid Broad's boorish behaviour is symptomatic of a generally mean-spirited approach by England teams of late - recent examples include the refusal to applaud Haidar's 50 in the last test, to the run out of a New Zealand player in a one-day game following a collision mid-pitch. Strauss/Collingwood would no doubt argue that they are being professional and aggressive but what comes across is petulance. The Aussies under Ian Chappell and Waugh or the Windies under Clive Lloyd were aggressive but they played the game in the right way; no-one wants England to be soft touch but there is something begrudging and childish about the way the current team behave towards opponents

Posted by neil on (August 17, 2010, 12:12 GMT)

Fletcher's comments irk me because I actually wrote in to BBC's Test Match Special with a related question for an interview Jonathan Agnew was having with Fletcher and Michael Vaughan. I asked if it had been a conscious decision to instill a 'win at all costs' mindset in the England team under Fletcher pre the 2005 ashes series. My question was justified, I believe, by the Jones/Hayden incident (similar to this one with Broad), the use of specialist substitute fielders, and the Harmison/Inzamam incident in the tour to India which followed.

Fletcher didn't actually say 'no' but claimed that he believed one should always play the game fairly and how you would want to influence children to grow up playing the game. Well, by his answer and his comments to the Broad incident, I'm guessing the next generation of schoolboys and tomorrow's 'professionals' are going to be a bunch of sulky aggressives always seeing how far they can push the umpires and the 'spirit of cricket'...

Posted by Abrar on (August 17, 2010, 10:42 GMT)

To Brian -Qld

Intersting that you mention Michael Holding "wouldn't resort to such pathetic stuff". True, he is unlikely to have thrown a ball at a batsman, but I remember the "elegant" (could it be any other way?)way that he kicked down the stumps in frustration on being being given out in NZ during a test many moons ago.

Having said this I I have the utmotst respect for Mikey's achievements and cricketing nous.

Posted by Abrar on (August 17, 2010, 10:41 GMT)

To Brian -Qld

Intersting that you mention Michael Holding "wouldn't resort to such pathetic stuff". True, he is unlikely to have thrown a ball at a batsman, but I remember the "elegant" (could it be any other way?)way that he kicked down the stumps in frustration on being being given out in NZ during a test many moons ago.

Having said this I I have the utmotst respect for Mikey's achievements and cricketing nous.

Posted by JOEY on (August 17, 2010, 8:56 GMT)

Like father like son, both petulant. But if you get rid of Chris, his circle of friends in the refrees office will still protect his son. I recently read on here that all the refrees hang out together on tours so the younger Broad will be protected by daddies mates. I hope that by some coincidance he(sauart) gets injured and boy will I celebrate.

Posted by Anonymous on (August 17, 2010, 7:00 GMT)

"Sportsmen, mediocre ones especially," - Very subtle and classic...The day Yuvi hit him for 6 SIXers, Broad has been taking out his frustration at every opposition and he is still not finished...his career might finish earlier than his frustrations...!

Posted by Brian - Qld on (August 17, 2010, 4:33 GMT)

Very good article, and unfortunately this sort of childish behaviour will only increase. Some commentators keep going on about 'aggression' when in fact it's boorish uncontrolled behaviour. I'd rather leave out the racism card though that some of your readers have raised. By the way it was Colin Croft that ran into the umpire (Fred Goodall) in NZ. Michael Holding was a great player and would never have resorted to such pathetic stuff. He let the ball do the talking

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Samir Chopra
Samir Chopra lives in Brooklyn and teaches Philosophy at the City University of New York. He runs the blogs at samirchopra.com and Eye on Cricket. His book on the changing face of modern cricket, Brave New Pitch: The Evolution of Modern Cricket has been published by HarperCollins. Before The Cordon, he blogged on The Pitch and Different Strokes on ESPNcricinfo. @EyeonthePitch

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