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September 6, 2010
Stuart Broad believes that the same professionalism that helped England to victory in the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean back in May has enabled them to keep their focus amid a torrid week for world cricket, but says that international cricketers have only themselves to blame if they allow themselves to be drawn into corrupt practices.
With the eyes of the world focussed on Sophia Gardens for all the wrong reasons, following a week of newspaper allegations surrounding the Pakistan team and the recent Lord's Test, England overcame a "slight hiccup", in the words of their captain Paul Collingwood, to chase down a modest target of 127 with 17 balls to spare in the first Twenty20 in Cardiff. It was the team's first outing in the format since overcoming Australia on a memorable afternoon in Barbados four months ago, and while the circumstances of this contest were far from ideal, the end result was pleasing nonetheless.
"We've been very focused on what we have to do on the pitch," said Broad. "You can get distracted by everything going on. But at the end of the day, that doesn't help you bowl the ball and hit it out of the park. Speaking personally, I've kept myself pretty well away from it. I've tried not to read too much or get myself too involved in it, because I want to focus on these two Twenty20 games here.
"After the Twenty20 World Cup, last night was a good statement that we want to take this team forward," he added. "It would be easy for us to sit back and say 'we've won a Twenty20 World Cup, and that's brilliant'. But last night saw a determination, everyone hurling themselves around in the field, to win and carry this streak on. We showed a lot of character to come back from five down (for 62), with the game looking a little bit iffy."
Broad, whose career-best 169 in last week's fourth Test was quickly overshadowed by the spot-fixing furore that erupted at the close of that third day's play, insisted - with good personal justification - that he had no sympathy for the situation in which the Pakistan squad now found itself.
"I'm sure for the Pakistan team, there's everyone following them around and there's a lot of hype around them at the minute, and that would be difficult to deal with. But at the end of the day, that's not our problem," said Broad. "There are always distractions in international cricket because that's part of being an international sportsman. There are probably more than most this week, to be honest, but that's why as players you've got to be able to shut things out and focus on what you've got to do."
Nor did he believe that any of the team had any excuse for not being aware of the threats posed by illegal bookmakers - not even the teenager Mohammad Amir - seeing as Broad himself had had the dangers drummed into him from the age of 19, when he first became part of the England set-up.
"I don't know what other boards do, I can only speak as an England player," he said. "But the ECB are very regimented in the advice they give us, because that's the responsibility that they have to take to make sure every player is educated. I don't think any player could ever have an excuse - 'I didn't know', or 'We weren't educated'.
"We get hand-outs, handbooks. With the amount of books I've got from the ICC at home, full of information, there's certainly no excuse as players. As soon as you come into the England team, the ICC get hold of you; you're put through this video, which is very watchable, very clear - it takes you back to when you were five or six, that's how clear it is. It outlines everything you're not allowed to do, everything you are allowed to do."
Broad conceded that the newspaper revelations had left the teams somewhat distanced from one another off-the-field, but he added that there had not been a lot of interaction beforehand, because the nature of modern-day sport doesn't allow much down-time for socialising. "I think that's gone out of the game a little bit, because obviously you don't want to give away little secrets about what you are planning," he said. "It's only after a series that you tend to have a drink with them and chat."
Nevertheless, Broad did regret not having had the chance for a proper catch-up with his former Leicestershire colleague, Mohammad Asif, whose bowling had been one of Pakistan's few high spots on their tour of Australia at the beginning of the year. Given everything that has now transpired, the chance to pick his brains on Australian conditions has surely been and gone.
"It's a difficult position and hard to comment on," he said. "He's a lovely fellow, I got on really well with him and he's obviously a world-class bowler. He is very open and willing to help and was a good overseas player for the six weeks he was at Leicestershire. But obviously these allegations have come from the News of the World and it will be interesting to see how it curtails and when it curtails.
"He is a seriously talented bowler," added Broad. "I only played about three games with him, I think. But he talks very much about getting close to the stumps and bowling wicket-to-wicket, and he was fantastic to learn from. Throughout this series I was saying to him 'at the end of this series I would like to have a chat with you about Australia' because he got a six-for (6 for 41) in Sydney and how he bowled over there. But with him being left out of the squad now, it's probably not going to happen."
For the time being, England and Pakistan have six more contests to get through before the end of the tour, starting with Tuesday's second Twenty20, and while the spot-fixing storm shows no sign of abating, Broad predicted that both sides would seek to immerse themselves in the remaining matches.
"We've just got to go out there and try to win," he said. "In international sport you get distractions all the time, but at the end of the day that shouldn't affect how you deliver a ball or how you hit a ball. That's one of the nice things about being a sportsman is that once you cross that white line, it is a freedom, you are away from everything in life really. You are playing cricket and that's an escape from everything. That's as clear as you get really."
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Plays of the Day from the second ODI between England and India, in Cardiff
Plays of the day from the 4th ODI between England and India at Edgbaston