England v India, NatWest Series August 20, 2007

Broad focuses on all-round role

When Stuart Broad was left out of the England team for the final Test at The Oval he had little time to ponder the disappointment

Stuart Broad has already had success against the Indians this summer, with 5 for 76 for England Lions © Getty Images
When Stuart Broad was left out of the England team for the final Test at The Oval he had little time to ponder the disappointment. Two-and-half-hours later he was back with Leicestershire for their County Championship match against Derbyshire. It was a worthwhile journey. He made career-bests with bat and ball to inspire his side a thrilling 28-run win. However, there is no doubt that Broad's future is with country rather than club.

He came within touching distance of his Test debut at Lord's, but after England's inexperienced attack flourished he couldn't find a place in the side. The motorways were given a pounding as he met up with his England team-mates before returning to Leicestershire. On Tuesday, though, he will be back on the international scene as the seven-match NatWest series begins.

"It was disappointing to be left out of the Tests," he told Cricinfo. "But we have a great group of fast bowlers and it's just about going away and putting pressure on the other players in the squad."

That pressure comes from the sort of all-round performance Broad put in against Derbyshire. A crucial, unbeaten 91 was followed by 5 for 67 when Derbyshire appeared on course to chase down 425. "It was a good performance," Broad said modestly. "The batting was very pleasing, unfortunately I couldn't get to a hundred but it was great to spend time in the middle."

One of England's key failings in the Tests against India was the inability of the tail to hang around. Ryan Sidebottom and Chris Tremlett are not Test No. 8s - they don't even bat that high for their counties - but Broad is often talked up as a true allrounder in the making. He began life as a batsman and retains the basic solid technique.

"[The batting] is something we have talked about since last winter on A tour. Whether I end up batting at eight it's vital to have bowlers who can score 30s, 40s and 50s like Brett Lee does for Australia. He has made himself into a very good batsman. In Test cricket, the more strings you have to your bow the better."

It's no surprise Broad has some batting pedigree. His father, Chris, scored six Test centuries for England, including three during the 1986-87 series, but he's not a major source of advice for Broad jnr. "We don't talk much about batting," he said, "and I certainly won't ask about bowling, he only got about 10 wickets his whole career. I talk to him more to unwind."

But has he imparted any wisdom in his role as a match referee? "He hasn't told me much yet, but I think he believes it's only time before I get pulled up for something. I have his attitude, but that's a good thing."

'Whether I end up batting at eight it's vital to have bowlers who can score 30s, 40s and 50s' © Getty Images
Although he is being made to wait for Test duty, Broad, still only 21 with nine ODI caps under his belt, is already a key member of Peter Moores's one-day side as he tries to build a team to challenge in the next World Cup. Given the paucity of England's one-day resources many people thought Broad should have gone to the last tournament, in West Indies, but he only made it as an replacement for Jon Lewis.

Now he is preparing to bowl against India's star-studded line-up. "I'm really excited by the challenge," he said. "You have to play against the best. I had some experience against them at Chelmsford [where he took 5 for 76 for England Lions] so I've had a look at some of their weakness so hopefully can take that into the series."

But England's one-day form hardly inspires. They lost 2-1 against West Indies earlier this season, in a series which highlighted familiar problems of death bowling, poor fielding and a lack of boundary hitters. However, the return of Andrew Flintoff brings another dimension to the team and Broad says they are not far away from being a real force.

"With the likes of Fred and KP [Kevin Pietersen] and class finishers like Paul Collingwood we have a very strong batting order. There are also some really talented youngsters like James Anderson, who has been bowling brilliantly. There is a confidence in the squad."

Whether that confidence is enough to turn over an Indian side still riding high from their Test success remains to be seen, but if England do start to find their feet in one-day cricket there is every chance that Broad will have played a leading role.

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Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer on Cricinfo