England in India 2012-13 November 21, 2012

Broad can't go on being 'promising'

Having played for England since his was 20, Stuart Broad is now at a crossroads and needs to fulfil his potential or remain a perennial prospect

Which seam bowler has taken the most Test wickets in world cricket this calendar year? And which seam bowler has the best match figures in a Test this year? Who was England's Man of the Series the last time they played India and who claimed the best innings and match figures of their Test career only a few months ago?

The answer to all these questions is Stuart Broad. Not only that, but Broad has a Test century and nine Test half-centuries to his name and his batting once moved Geoffrey Boycott to say: "There's a bit of Sobers in him."

So it might be somewhat surprising that some, including former England captain Sir Ian Botham, are calling for Broad to be dropped. But, after a disappointing performance in the first Test at Ahmedabad, there appears to be a growing number feeling that Broad has become just a little complacent in the England team and could do with a wake-up call. Such a reminder was administered by Twitter users, in response to whom Broad launched a rebuttal.

Broad was out-bowled by both Indian seamers, Zaheer Khan and Umesh Yadav, in Ahmedabad. He looked to have lost some pace and, as a consequence, lacked the potency to strike on pitches offering little. But most concerning was the impression that Ahmedabad was not a one-off poor game. Broad also struggled against South Africa, finishing the series with a bowling average of 39.72 and, despite showing rich promise with the bat when scoring 169 against Pakistan at Lord's in 2010, he has made only one half-century this year. Since June, his bowling average is 48.54 and his batting average is 14.

But the picture with Broad is far from black and white. While his recent form may be disappointing, his overall record is still good. And, aged 26, he should still have his best years in front of him. It is worth remembering, too, that until the South Africa series, Broad looked to be developing well. A hat-trick against India at Nottingham in 2011 had inspired the best form of his career. He bowled beautifully in the UAE.

Part of Broad's problem is that he promised so much. Fast-tracked into England's limited-overs team after just six List A appearances, Broad has been playing for England since he was 20 years old. He was elevated to the Twenty20 captaincy in 2011 and, at the start of this tour, was named as vice-captain of the Test squad. There are those who believe promotion came too easy for Broad. There are those who think reward preceded achievement. That he has never known the motivating power of being excluded. That a period out of the team would provide just the impetus he requires.

It is true that such a tactic has worked in the past. Matt Prior and Andrew Strauss were both dropped and used the pain of omission to drive them to make improvements in their game. The same could be said for former greats such as Graham Gooch and David Gower.

But there is equal evidence to suggest that continuity of selection brings rewards. Towards the end of the 2010 England season, Alastair Cook looked out of form and confidence and was struggling to justify his retention. The selectors maintained faith and Cook repaid them with a prolific Ashes series. He has hardly looked back.

Injury to Steven Finn, who is set to continue his rehabilitation by playing for the Performance Programme side next week, may well mean a reprieve for Broad in Mumbai. But, even if Finn had been fit, England would be loathe to drop Broad. It is not just that they have a naturally conservative selection policy and a new captain who, understandably, may be keen to avoid souring the relationship with his right-hand man; it is that England believe in Broad.

He was, after all, the man that produced the key burst at The Oval to clinch the Ashes in 2009 and produced the series-defining spell against India at Trent Bridge in 2011. Nor are there many obviously better cricketers than him in the county game: between 2009 and 2011, Broad played only six Championship matches, but claimed four five-wicket hauls, taking 37 wickets at 21.32. Broad's talent is not questioned, but England are not currently maximising it.

It is possible the pitch in Mumbai may suit him a little more. But, while its reputation suggests it will offer a little more bounce, it has been used previously, at the start of November, for a Ranji Trophy match in which Sachin Tendulkar scored a century. All the signs suggest the spinners will be to the forefront once again.

In time, we may come to see Broad as a victim of England's schedule. It may be that he and his fellow seamers are simply weary. Broad, in particular, plays all three formats of the game and, though he has been rested and missed games through injury, has appeared jaded in recent times. All the games and, just as importantly, all the training, may be taking their toll. International cricket is becoming a squad game and fast bowlers, especially, may require rotation.

Either way, Broad is now at a crossroads. He still has time to fulfil his potential but should be aware of other prodigiously talented allrounders - the likes of Chris Lewis - who remained promising for their entire careers. It is hard to escape the conclusion that time is running out.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • stuart on November 23, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    I really thought Broad would go on to be a great player but at this point he just has not done it abroad. He is looking dangerously like this generations Chris Lewis, great potential but never fulfilled. Maybe it is time for someone else to have a go. Just lets not have another saffer shall we

  • Nicholas on November 23, 2012, 12:14 GMT

    People say that stats don't lie... blah blah blah - so if you go by the first two paragraphs, Broad's the best bowler in the world now huh? Well sorry, but I think there's more to bowling than this, and Broad has been off the boil for the best part of this year. You need wickets in test cricket, and Broad just aint getting any of late; he's supposed to be able to bat a little as well, and he hasn't added anything of note for ages. England need to stop picking players on promise and try new tricks like Woakes and/or three spinners for Asian tracks. Where is Tredwell for example? He bowled beautifully in earlier series.

  • Walter on November 23, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    Broad is overrated, his pace is little more than a medium pacer and as soon as things arent going his way he throws his toys out of his cot. He can be decent when hes on song but overall hes below average imo. Drop him, forget him and move on. When he's taking bags of wickets in county cricket then,and only then, should he be reconsidered. Its amazing how badly one has to perform to be dropped from the english team. If he was playing for any other country in the world, he would have been dropped 2 years ago...

  • Brett on November 22, 2012, 22:14 GMT

    PS - after watching the Aussies dismantle the SA bowlers twice with ease I would be very nervous about holding on to the Ashes next year

  • Brett on November 22, 2012, 22:12 GMT

    Broad has been average and down on form but so have most of his teammates. In 12 Tests this year only 1 batsman averages over 40 (Cook) with the next best being Prior at 7. With the ball all of the front line bowlers average over 30. In short most of them have been a long way below their best and it shows little sign of changing based on the evidence of 2012. Injuries to Finn and Tremlett have taken away options too and there are too many bits and pieces players there at the moment. If England are to compete here they need to bring in Bairstow for Bell, Monty for Bresnan and Morgan for Patel. The specialists should then be told to perform and do their jobs. England only need 2 seamers and 2 quality spinners and use KP and Trott for the rest if needed while this top 6 might be able to post a score - Patel is a no 8 at best and not a Test spinner.

  • Mark on November 22, 2012, 21:20 GMT

    @Hardy1, sadly Chris Tremlett is unlikely to be considered again, in the same way that Simon Jones was not. He would have been an interesting weapon with his height. The nearest like-for-like would be someone like Reece Topley.

  • Lewis on November 22, 2012, 17:26 GMT

    I think everyone can agree that Broad performaces the last few months have not been up to his high standards but every cricketer that has ever played the game has suffered lapses in form. England didn't lose the first test match because Broad bowled badly, they lost the test because Panesar did not play and the batsmen could not handle the first innings pressure. Broad is a genuine number 7 batsmen and being giving some more responsibility with the bat will no doubt raise his performance levels with the ball too. Anderson and Broad were unbelievably good in the UAE and should they get a chance to bowl on a surface which has the slightest hint of any life, they'll rip through the flat track bullies of India.

  • G on November 22, 2012, 13:41 GMT

    Broad should not be t20 captain, is not a leader. His bowling is incredibly inconsistent. He can take wickets, but how expensive are they?

  • Richard on November 22, 2012, 12:32 GMT

    I agree with some others. Broad has occasional flashes , but is basically over-rated. batting has gone to peieces, and bowling now down on pace and ineffective. Not to mention his volatile and at times unacceptable temperament. N

  • Simon on November 22, 2012, 11:11 GMT

    Broad gets wickets because of Swann and Anderson (or Tremlett when fit). They build pressure, Broad bangs one in short and wide and it gets hit to a fielder.

    He's never been potent if they've struggled.

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