England in India 2012-13 November 27, 2012

Broad's Test place in the balance

David Saker, the England bowling coach, has admitted Stuart Broad's performance in Mumbai "wasn't up to scratch" and provided the biggest hint yet that he will struggle to keep his place in the team for the third Test in Kolkata.

Broad has yet to take a wicket in the Test series against India and, since the start of June, has taken 11 Test wickets, eight of those at Headingley against South Africa, at 54.00.

With Steven Finn returning from injury to take 4 for 50 in the England Performance Programme match in Mumbai and England now committed to playing two spinners in the rest of the series, it is hard to see how Broad can be accommodated.

Saker accepted that conditions in India were tough for seam bowlers like Broad, but urged him to "front up" and learn from the example of fast bowlers who have achieved success on such wickets.

"He's finding it tough, no doubt," Saker said. "I don't think he's the first fast bowler to come over here and find it tough. It's another great learning curve for him. Bowling fast over here isn't easy and you have to find a way to survive. The really great bowlers always have. You don't just say the fast bowlers are going to have no influence - a defeatist attitude like that is not accepted. We've got to have a look at the way bowlers have done it over here and try your best at replicating that.

"He's learning it the hard way at the moment and it's probably not going the way he'd like it to go. His confidence is probably not as high as he'd like but this place can really dent your confidence quickly. As a fast bowler you want to see a few balls zinging through to the keeper and it's hard to do that here. He's finding that difficult but it's something he will learn from and hopefully become a better bowler for it.

On Tuesday, Broad tweeted that he had lost 5kgs over the last week after reports during the Test that he was suffering from illness, but Saker did not want to look for excuses.

"I think he had a little bit of an illness but once you cross the line you're a hundred percent. His performance wasn't up to scratch but that happens over here," he said. "It's a tough place to bowl fast. He's had a little bit of a break, he needs to front up and find out what's the best way to go about it over here.

Broad certainly appears to have fallen behind Finn and James Anderson in the pecking order. Although Anderson has only claimed two wickets in the series to date, Saker was hugely impressed by his performance in Mumbai and conceded that, if Finn came through the EPP game, he would prove hard to ignore.

"He's finding it really difficult to get his head around changing the way he bowls. You can bowl fourth stump nearly everywhere in the world but if you go wide of the stumps here you get hurt."
David Saker on Stuart Broad's struggles

"Jimmy was outstanding here," Saker said. "It was as good as I've ever seen him bowl and he could have had a few more wickets if things had gone his way.

"Finn has been monitored the last few days and if he gets through this game with the Lions squad there's a good chance he might play in Kolkata, without a doubt. He's a special talent and has the pace we probably need for this place. We'd like to get him in the team.

"If he can get through that game there's no doubt he'll come into the selection picture. We thought he was on target for the Mumbai Test. I was very optimistic he could play, and that backfired so we don't want to get ahead of ourselves this time. We want to see him bowl 20 overs and take some wickets.

"It would have been an interesting selection call if he'd been fit here. We obviously made the right call with the two spinners so one of the fast bowlers may have had to miss out and both Stuart and Jimmy have played well up to now. We would have had to make a call on that and we'll have to make a call for this one, for sure, if Finn is fit."

Saker rejected the idea that Broad had lost pace over the last few months, suggesting that the issue was more a failure to react to the conditions in India and a subsequent loss of confidence.

"I don't think it's a matter of pace," Saker said. "He came back from injury at the World Twenty20 and bowled at good pace and I thought in the warm-up games and in the first Test he bowled at a good pace.

"I just think he's lacking a bit of confidence and finding it really difficult to get his head around maybe changing the way he bowls. Here you have to change it a bit. You can bowl fourth stump nearly everywhere else in the world but if you go wide of the stumps here you get hurt. We did discuss that before this trip, how bowling straight is crucial, and we watched as lot of footage of the teams who have come here and done well, Australia, South Africa and even the West Indies who came out here not long ago, bowled straight and had some success.

"He probably just hasn't played that well in these two Tests. Maybe he's looking for something that just isn't there as well. He's asking a lot of questions that probably don't need to be asked."

Saker also hinted that recent weeks have provided him with his biggest challenge while working with England. "I've been blessed in that I haven't had to do a lot of hard yards up to now as a bowling coach but now, with Tim Bresnan and Stuart of late, we've had to have some good talks and maybe some tinkering with actions. At the end of the day we still have to keep the game as simple as we can."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo