Broad shrugs off World Cup spin threat
It is probably stretching the notion to suggest England's problems against India's spinners are part of a cunning plan to lull oppositions, but Stuart Broad certainly sees the team's current predicament with a glass half-full view.
Broad, who will undergo surgery on his knee on Thursday but remains confident of being fit for the World Cup, watched from the Trent Bridge stands as England fumbled their way to 227 in the second ODI, losing their way almost as soon as MS Dhoni decided to take the pace off the ball. Something very similar happened a few days earlier in Cardiff and, in truth, has regularly been happening to England teams in one-day cricket for much of the last two decades while other nations have taken the format to new levels. As if to reinforce the point, the performance at Edgbaston was even worse.
It has become the standard answer from an England player to point out that spin is not expected to play a huge role in Australia and New Zealand - although Deepak Patel with the new ball in 1992 should not be forgotten - but it will surely be tempting for sides to play at least two frontline spinners against England almost regardless of conditions. That is not a prospect that Broad is concerned about.
"To be honest, I think that will play into our hands in Australia and New Zealand because it doesn't really turn," Broad said. "You'd imagine the players of the quality playing for England will be able to rotate the score off the spinners because it just skids on.
"You look at James Tredwell who has a really good record in England, he struggled in Australia and I wouldn't expect regulation finger spinners to cause any team big problems down there. In 1992 Mushtaq Ahmed had a really good tournament but he was a legspinner. As an England side we didn't play the spin well at Trent Bridge, but come the MCG or Wellington I can't see that being top of our worry list."
The recent performances by England have only gone to fuel the comments made by Michael Vaughan and Graeme Swann during the washed out match in Bristol, when everything from the captain to the tactics was ripped apart. Alastair Cook responded with his "so-called friend" comment about Swann while there is a certain siege mentality among the squad with regards to how they are playing one-day cricket.
"I don't think those comments would have come if the sun was shining at Bristol. I think it was bored comments watching the rain fall," Broad said during the final of the NatWest U-19 T20 club finals at his former home ground of Grace Road. "We haven't played as well as we'd want but we are building towards the World Cup. I've no doubt we can be really competitive in the World Cup. I've got full belief we are playing the right way, the guys just need to show more skill."
Of more immediate concern for Broad is a date with the surgeon on Thursday when he will undergo an operation to try and eradicate tendonitis in his right knee which has caused increasing problems for him since the Ashes in Australia. It became touch-and-go during the first two Tests against India whether he would make it through the series, but the brevity of India's innings in the last two outings meant he finished feeling in decent shape.
But Broad knows it is a problem he needs to get sorted if he wants to be a central figure in the congested year England have in 2015, starting with the World Cup then into a West Indies tour, a home summer including an Ashes then a tour of UAE to face Pakistan and a trip to South Africa.
Surprisingly, for a fast bowler who pushes his body to the limit, this will be the first time Broad has gone under the knife for anything. "I'm looking forward to getting it sorted but got to be honest I'm a bit nervous as I've never had an operation before, so there's a little bit of the unknown coming my way," he said. "The likes of Freddie and Goughy needed quite of surgery so I've been lucky.
"There have been times when it's been tough in the night and I've needed to get in hot baths at 3am. It has been a struggle so it will be relief to get it done. It's also a good period for me to get refreshed and strong for what's a really busy 18 months after Christmas."
He has been busy researching what will happen and he has been picking the brain of his close friend Luke Wright who has had the same operation, while also taking solace from seeing Toby Roland-Jones and Stuart Meaker return to action after also having the repair work done.
Broad has been told he could be back in the gym on the bike as soon as two or three days after the operation while the entire rehab programme is expected to take 14 to 15 weeks which brings him towards the end of the year.
"With knees you don't quite know until you get inside," he said. "You can only show much a scan will show. The key is the rehab afterwards to get everything really strong. It's a good time to do it this week because it gives me a four-week period where the season is still on where I can work with the physios.
"It is expected to be a 14-15 week rehab on the knee, maximum, so that January 6 flight to Australia for the tri-series is certainly very achievable. There's a huge amount of time."
And whatever pain, sweat and hard work Broad has to go through over the next few months there is the prospect of opening the bowling against Australia at the MCG on the opening day of the World Cup.
"I've been very fortunate to play 70-odd Tests and 100-odd ODIs, but England-Australia at the MCG to open the World Cup, unless you get to the semi or final, it's as big as you get," he said. "It will be one of those sporting occasions that even if you were just in the crowd you'd say you were there - so the chance to play in it will be very special."
Quite what state England are in when that first ball is bowled remains to be seen.
Stuart Broad was speaking at the NatWest U19 T20 Club Final at Leicestershire CCC. NatWest are committed to sponsoring T20 cricket from grassroots to the top of the professional game. To find out more go to natwest.com/cricket
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo