England v NZ, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day May 19, 2013

The delights and frustrations of Stuart Broad

His ability should make him a national treasure but there is an element to Stuart Broad that gets fans gnashing their teeth

Stuart Broad is the Nicholas Cage of bowling. Cage will take risks, perform erratically, pick terrible films, choose the wrong way to perform a role, overact and then occasionally perform so brilliantly that he makes an entire film. While doing all this he also divides opinion.

Smack in the middle of Stuart Broad's cluster bomb that made New Zealand look like they're a club side who'd walked into Lord's by accident, I received a link to a blog about Broad. Broad comes a close third to Sachin and Shahid in the most-blogged-about stakes. It is almost without doubt something about whether he's a good or bad bloke, and a good or bad cricketer. This blog was in that vein.

I've never met Stuart Broad, and up until he does something to me personally that offends, I won't really worry about it. But working out whether Broad is a good cricketer is more interesting.

Stuart Broad wins Test matches. That is not something that most humans do, and neither do most cricketers. Broad can change the game with the bat or the ball. Yet again, it's a small club. When Stuart Broad does something good, he does something spectacular. Most people's good is still kind of just better than okay.

Yet, there are still doubts. And I'm not talking about the doubts that people who refer to him as Barbie have.

Broad's bowling average is over 31. Even after his 7-for today. 32 is the average of all the bowlers in the history of cricket. It means that as a bowler he is barely better than average.

After 55 Tests Broad averages 25 with the bat. It's good, but his hundred was against two bowlers who ended up in jail because of that summer. It's not the average of a Test allrounder, more a handy bowler who either fails to deliver at all, or takes the game away quickly. It's this batting pattern than haunts his bowling.

Broad is hit for six sixes. Broad can't finish a match against Netherlands. Broad helps England win the 2009 Ashes. Broad struggles against South Africa. Broad goes missing against Sri Lanka. Broad takes a hat-trick and wins England the world No. 1 Test Spot. Broad disappoints against South Africa. Broad takes no wickets in two Indian Tests. Then Broad takes 7 for 44 as his team give New Zealand a statistically gettable chase.

It is all a simplification of Broad's career. But it's also based on how he has performed. Broad is either a monumental force of destruction, or a puppy lost in the wrong backyard. He has very little in-between.

That sort of great-or-garbage cricketer is the one who will always get the most abuse from fans. Their fans fall in love for the magical moments. Their detractors hate every single moment in-between, and also hate that they are successful at all, keeping them in the team for more long periods of failure before only popping up for enough success to keep them around for longer.

This Broad rampage comes just as, not for the first time, his place was being discussed by the fans and media - the people who despise him as if he's doing it on purpose; like he wants to toy with their emotions.

Then they point to the less important things. Broad's blonde hair seems to annoy more people than a natural hair colour should. The stroppy behavior when a ball is misfielded from his bowling. The way he forces captains to refer to him almost every delivery where he beats the bat. That it seems like he gets a better deal from the match referees. That his girlfriends are sometimes celebrities. That his father played Test cricket. Very little of that really affects how good, or not, he is as a cricketer.

He has not performed as consistently as his amazing performances hint he can. There are probably many reasons. One is that it isn't easy to perform consistently like he did today, because few mortals ever have.

Even at only 26, Broad is a veteran. He's been in the game long enough to block out the angry fans and ignore the press he doesn't like. He's well-travelled, world-weary and England's T20 captain.

It's the difference between his best and worst that he needs to narrow. Broad should be an automatic selection for this side. He should average under 30 with the ball, and he should average over 30 with the bat. Broad should be vice-captain of this Test side.

The same Stuart Broad who annihilated New Zealand today has never averaged under 30 with the ball. That is far more annoying than his hair colour, genealogy or his girlfriends.

When you bowl as fast as Stuart Broad, are as clever as Stuart Broad and can strike the ball like Stuart Broad you deserve to be a national treasure, not compared to a man who overacted in a film called National Treasure.

Jarrod Kimber is 50% of the Two Chucks, and the mind responsible for cricketwithballs.com

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Sony on May 22, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    @Ankush_Batra, and the worst thing is isanth sharma is the best bowler in india

  • Ankush on May 21, 2013, 5:33 GMT

    Still better than Ishant Sharma!

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2013, 12:07 GMT

    Remember that the Anderson of yesteryear was every bit as inconsistent and frustrating as the Broad of today. There's still every chance that the Broad of tomorrow will be as consistent and spell-binding as the Anderson of today!

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2013, 11:17 GMT

    Basically, this is all a great example of the media creating its own narrative which bears very little resemblance to reality. Broad had a hot streak from late 2009-early 2012; then a tough series against the best batting line-up in the world (SA) in 2012, followed by a serious heel injury in India. He tried to play through it and his form suffered, predictably. After recovering he was again England's best bowler in NZ and now, seemingly fit, he is again one of England's best two fast bowlers. That's it.

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2013, 10:20 GMT

    Also, 31 is his TEST average. FC average is 28.5.

  • James on May 20, 2013, 9:20 GMT

    Interesting to note that Kimber puts pen to paper only when he has the topic nailed. He is a consistently good read, with his telltale turns of phrase. If he wrote as unevenly as Broad plays cricket he would by now be selling rabbits in Leichhardt.

  • gurinder on May 20, 2013, 9:12 GMT

    he is english ishant sharma, averaging in 30 in the most favourable conditions and green tops. thats why he was thrashed in india where there is no cloud cover to help. also he gives lot of runs , 36 in one over which is world record for a fast bowler.

  • Mark on May 20, 2013, 8:01 GMT

    I said it atthe time and so I can say it now. England have mismanaged Broad. They brought him into the Test side too early. Bowling tends to develop earlier than batting in the true allrounder (and I argue he IS a true allrounder) note Sobers started his Test career at No. 9. Because his bowling was "ready" he began Test cricket very early and i believe, in so doing, England have turned a potential Botham (or better) class allrounder into a bowler-who-can-bat. Had Broad been left to develop his allround game, particularly his batting, in county cricket for another couple of seasons he would realistically be a prospect for No 7 or even 6 and England could play five bowlers. A similar prosepct is Woakes, but he is coming to the fore jusrt that little bit later and, as a result, is likely to be a more complete all-round cricketer. I say it again - batting takes longer to develop that bowling in the true all-round cricketer. So rare are the TRUE allrounders that their nurture is vital.

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2013, 6:19 GMT

    Gower_esque_chris: I think its fair enough to compare Broad with Ishant; At least he gets to bowl in English conditions for roughly 50% of the matches he plays in. Ishant at least has the excuse that he bowls in the dust bowls of India most of the time where he bowls very little in a test match before giving way to the spinners. I am not trying to defend Ishant as he generally bowls garbage even in those limited opportunities.

  • Chris on May 20, 2013, 5:46 GMT

    Frustrating as he is I'd always rather see a potential match winner in the team than a solid plodder. Just be nice if he did it a little more often. particularly with the bat and not just on pace friendly tracks. People seem keen to quote stats and his on the surface do not seem anything but OK. But why if Broad is so rubbish (and if stats are a fair reflection) is he consistently in or around the world's top 10 (see offical ratings on criketratings.com)? It's either everyone else is worse (sorry state of world cricket) or he isn't quite that bad. I'd be interested to see his year on year average, bet he's improving. And comparing Broad to Ishant isn't fair, Ishant is down at 31 where he deserves to be. 3 places below Darren Sammy.

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