Bright light on Broad way
Stuart Broad has had a meteoric year. From England Under-19 to the Academy to the A tour to the England development squad - and now he is being linked to the full England side. But, despite being a towering 6 foot 5 and rising, he has his feet firmly on the ground.
It's just that he can't help getting picked - and while every call-up is a surprise, it is quickly taken in his giant stride. His approach to his opponents - even if they are the Sri Lanka Test team - is exactly the same, too: laidback. "It doesn't really matter who you are bowling at, you still have to bowl the same." His logic is faultless.
His first experience at England A level was a sudden call-up to the Caribbean, which was "superb". He was out in Cape Town training with Luke Wright, from Sussex, when both of them got the call. It was also his first ever tour. It was a quick turnaround, back to Heathrow and straight out again. "It was a great experience - just learning how professional you need to be." And what did he learn? Among other things, he learnt how to bowl into the wind. "Obviously," he smiles, "I wasn't going to get a choice of ends being the youngster."
He's ready to bide his time, but the calls kept coming. Next was Sri Lanka. He had been expecting to play for Leicestershire that day. "It was a bit of a surprise as my kit was already in Essex so I had to get it ferried all the way back to Worcester - but a great opportunity to play against the Sri Lankans. I was over the moon with it. It's as close as you're going to get to Test cricket without playing."
So when will he be playing Test cricket? Well, although he's been ushered into the England development squad, he doesn't see that there's any rush. Still, given the speed with which everything else has happened, it's worth asking would 19 be too young if he did get a sudden call. "No, not at all, no. Age isn't really relevant, it's how you bowl really." Peter Moores, who has been working with Broad at the Academy, agrees. "There isn't and shouldn't be any ageism. If you are good enough, you're good enough."
But Broad knows he has to be realistic. "I'm not looking at the England side for a couple of years. I've got to develop myself. Learn my trade at county level and develop as a bowler to make the step up."
He doesn't come across as a worrier, but does he keep an eye on his competitors who are already on the ladder, Chris Tremlett and Sajid Mahmood, for instance? "Not at all, really. I know that if I'm taking wickets. It doesn't matter what anyone else does." You can't argue.
Broad, who models himself on Glenn McGrath and Shaun Pollock, dismisses reports that he remodelled his action while in Loughborough this winter, where he worked with the "superb" Moores and Kevin Shine. "I didn't remodel, I just had a few technical deficiencies that I needed to eke out, just get myself a bit tighter and stand a bit taller." How much taller do you want, though? Rumours have it that he could grow to 6 foot 8.
"I don't want to get too much taller because I'm already hitting my head on door frames! I've heard rumours, but the taller, the better with the bounce and carry you get - that would be nice." He certainly doesn't have his head in the clouds.
His height is the reason why he's a bowler. He was destined to follow in the footsteps of his father Chris as a batsman, until he suddenly shot up. "I thought I may as well try bowling because I can't just stand around in the field all day." There's that faultless logic again.
"I'm never going to be a genuine no 6, but nowadays every batsman needs to score runs. Even if you're batting nine and ten you need to be able to score 70s and 80s so that's my major aim. I want to be in the future looking to bat eight and score good runs. It's just getting used to it. I feel my game's developing. I'm working hard on it."
So he may not be an opener as his dad was, but if stamping his bat into the ground when getting out and kicking the turf in frustration when getting taken for four - all when playing county cricket - is evidence, then he has inherited the Broad spirit. "I think my temperament is similar. I've got the passion he had for sure. Obviously I'm very frustrated when I get hit for four and when I get dismissed."
It's something that critics and England watchers will be keeping a close eye on. Unsurprisingly Broad is unfazed by such - rather, he's proud. "You've got to have that passion to play the game I think."
Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo