November 16, 2008

Ripe young age

England's most promising new fast bowler may be just 22 but he's quite a seasoned campaigner already

The first five-for: Broad leads England off the field against South Africa at Trent Bridge earlier this year © Getty Images

Stuart Broad declares an important aim. "I want people to call my dad Stuart," he says, flashing his pin-up's smile. "I still get called Chris more than Stuart, which is a bit of a shame."

Broad is sitting in the middle of a group of Indian journalists at England's meet-and-greet session with the media on their India tour. He is still recovering from a 40-minute training session in the heat. In between answers he takes sips of what looks like a chocolate drink from the corner of his mouth.

Broad is 22 and looks about that. Tall, 6'5", he has a slender frame that is steadily filling out, and blond hair cut short. He likes designer gear and sportscars. He blushes when you bring up his appearing nude in Cosmopolitan in the UK (Broad, James Anderson and Alastair Cook did it for a charity). Some of his England mates call him "Westlife", after the boyband ("more for my looks than for my singing skills") to get his wind up, he says.

He may be the youngest member of the England squad, but over the last year Broad has fast-tracked himself to become one of the key members of the side, with ball and bat. Along with that other tall young fast bowler Ishant Sharma, Broad has been among the bowling finds of the recent past.

His match-winning record partnership with Ravi Bopara earned England a tight victory against India last summer at Old Trafford in the NatWest Series. He followed that up with an impressive 11 wickets in the 3-2 series win in Sri Lanka.

When injury kept Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison out, Broad didn't let the opportunity go to waste, grabbing at his chance to become a permanent member of the Test side - he played six of England's seven home Tests this year. His unbeaten 67 at Headingley against South Africa helped England avoid an innings defeat and earned a plaudit from no less than Geoff Boycott, who said he saw "a little bit of Sobers" in Broad.

Broad is modest about the acclaim. "I'm in a lucky position. I'm 22 and I've played close to 40 ODIs for England and I'm gaining in experience. I was delighted to climb to No.4 in the ICC ODI bowling rankings, which was pleasing for me because it involved my first five-for and played a role in England's 4-0 defeat of South Africa," he says.

That performance against South Africa, his best to date, came at his home ground in Nottingham, where he moved at the end of 2007, after starting his career with Leicestershire. "To get batsmen like [Herschelle] Gibbs, [Graeme] Smith, [Jacques] Kallis was definitely pleasing. That would be one of my highlights."

Broad displays a maturity beyond his years that has impressed insiders. "The amazing thing for me was his concentration level and his professionalism for a guy of 16, when I saw him for the first time," Paul Nixon, the former England wicketkeeper, who captained Broad at Leicestershire, says. "Everything about him was organised. Stuart knows his mind and knows what direction he is heading. Nothing surprises me with Stuart."

Ryan Sidebottom is a bit of a fan too. "He doesn't get frustrated if he is not taking wickets and he can bat, too. Obviously his father gives him good advice."

A few days later Broad's father Chris arrives in Mumbai from Nagpur, where he was match referee for the Australia series. "Hello, mate. How're you doing?" Chris asks his son. Broad smiles, but he isn't happy about the twisted knee he suffered in England's first warm-up a couple of days ago.

We are at the Brabourne Stadium, where England are playing their second warm-up. The Broads exchange notes on their peripatetic lives. Chris recommends a couple of Indian culinary delights he thinks Stuart ought to try.

Broad's parents split up when he was six, but both played singular roles in his development. Chris, a no-nonsense match referee, used to be known for his volatile temper during his playing days. For Broad his father has been a "great advantage".

"He is a role model and I can talk to him as he knows so much about the game. He is always at the end of the phone if I need him." As for his mother, Carole, he couldn't be more indebted to her. She was the one who took him to all his matches, drove him home, and then talked about the game, he told the Wisden Cricketer recently. "I'd be in the back garden playing and I'd want 50 catches thrown at me, so she'd be out there throwing catches. She was the key in letting me enjoy my cricket."

Broad senior shares some thoughts from the Australia series with his son and some members of the England coaching staff. He talks about how vital the seam position is when it comes to reverse swing. Stuart soaks it all in. "You need different skills," he says of the challenge of bowling in India. "The more you can keep your action and your mind and the ball you are delivering as simple as you can nothing can go wrong."

Top Curve
Stuart's stats
  • Broad's ODI strike-rate of 34 is the third-best among England bowlers who have at least 20 wickets.
  • His ODI bowling average of 27.56 places him at No. 6 on the list of the leading England bowlers (who have taken 50 wickets or more) in ODIs.
  • He is the leading ODI wicket-taker in the world over the last year and a half, with 50 wickets from 32 games.
  • With 370 runs in Tests this year at 41.11, he is at No. 2 on the list of top run-makers among tailenders.
Bottom Curve

During the World Twenty20 last year Broad was unforgettably hit for six sixes by Yuvraj Singh. Broad says he is pleased with how he has bounced back from that ignominy - though the Indian media are trying their best to get the wound open again .

When asked what he has learned from the likes of Andrew Flintoff, he launches into smooth team-management talk. "The major thing is to bowl as a unit. What we do well as a unit is to focus on bowling certain lengths on certain pitches along with certain deliveries, which has helped keep the opposition from running away from us.

"Fred always talks about the consistency of the bowling - hitting the top of off stump every ball and not over-complicating things. Harmy is the same. 'Keep your natural flair and ability,' that's what they say," Broad says.

He has looked at the figures of the great English allrounders of the past and realises he could well join their ranks with his more than handy batting at No.7 or No. 8. "I've got three half-centuries in my first nine Tests, which is very good."

It has been a swift rise, from schoolboy cricket to second-team, first-team, and international cricket. He hasn't had the usual long apprenticeship that many players undergo before they get to represent England. "He respects the game. That's why he has moved forward quickly," Nixon says.

Broad's sense of direction and clarity about his goals come to the fore when he talks about taking the current India series as a stepping stone for the World Cup in 2011. "To have 100 games behind me by the time the World Cup comes along will help me."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo. Stats by Mathew Varghese

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Aabhas on November 18, 2008, 14:14 GMT

    He does look good. He's just 21 / 22 so the pace will come as he becomes stronger. THe best thing about him is he knows where to pitch the ball - atleast make the batsmen put some effort in to hit you for a six! Apart from Pietersen and Fintoff his batting is any other current England batsman for me. All the best to him.

  • mandovi on November 18, 2008, 12:20 GMT

    Stuart definitely needs to work hard in test games.Though he has very good batting average in test games but needs improvements with balls.As far as him being called as an "overated player",I would like to draw attention to his performance in 2nd odi against India in Indore.He took 3 early wickets(India was 29-3)and later Yuvraj Singh's,he also made 22 runs from 11 balls.His performance clearly reflected how he has qiuckly grasped the India's flat pitch conditon.In 1st odi though he didnt scrap any wicket but showed some great bowling skills by changing the pace and thus tricked Indian batsmen.Ever since his debut against Pakistan in 2006,he has molded himself into a good cricketer.His performance against New Zealand and South Africe back home waz truly amazing. All the best and lets hope he fulfills his aim of being recognised as Stuart!!

  • Safdar on November 18, 2008, 11:51 GMT

    Broad's major achievement to date has been to keep his place in the Test side.He'll have to improve on his bowling average to stay there.

  • Bhavin on November 17, 2008, 22:13 GMT

    Stuart Broad is a good bowler, but its hard to forget the 666666 against Yuvraj Singh. Solid batsman too amongst tailenders. Wish him all the best!

  • Mark on November 17, 2008, 19:34 GMT

    Sub-continental fans always tend to under-rate players from outside their area. Even Ian Botham, with his century and 10 wickets in the same Test v India is described as "highly over-rated" by Indian fans. Stuart Broad seems to be another victim of this trend.

    24 wickets in 9 Tests, albeit still rather expensive (although the cost is coming down and he has already improved his best innings bowling figures 3 times) and a batting average 37 (with 3x50) are far better figures than one Andrew Flintoff had at the same stage and suggest a pretty special talent. A strike rate of 80 and falling rapidly in Tests gives the lie to the suggestion above that he is just cannon-fodder who will never take Test wickets regularly.

    Carefully looked-after, Stuart Broad will be haunting teams for a fair while.

  • Justin on November 17, 2008, 8:57 GMT

    In my opinion he is extremely overrated - his figures look ok in the one day game, but on only one occasion that I can remember has he actually contributed to a victory. He bowls tat that sort of pace which batsmen find extremely easy to handle - not fast enough to cause any real worry. He doesn't swing the ball, nor does he get a lot of movement off the seam unless the pitch is dieing. He relies on bounce but is entirely too inaccurate to ever be worth a spot in the test team - players go after him in the one day game and like a Brett Lee, that's where he gets his wickets. But when he gets it wrong…as Yuvraj has found out - he is certainly not up to this standard. The only thing keeping him in the test side at the moment is his batting. He will never be more than a one day specialist as a bowler….look for the aussies to chew him up and end his career if he gets an ashes Guernsey next year.

  • Chetan on November 17, 2008, 4:10 GMT

    Stuart will be one of the greats in upcoming days. I firmly believe, he will come up as a great all-rounder. His batting looks solid eventhough coming in as a tail-ender.

    Lets hope for his best. :)

  • Mark on November 16, 2008, 10:52 GMT

    Stuart Broad still is not greatly appreaciated by the fans though. Recently the BBC headlined a comment from a fan that he and the habitual scapegoat, Steve Harmison, should be dropped from the England side in India. The fans seem to call for his head a lot, despite increasingly solid results. In fact, it's not improbable that soon he will be batting at 7 in Tests and adding depth and balance to the side. It's a pretty stunning thought that next summer England could, conceivably, play Adil Rashid, Stuart Broad and Andrew Flintoff at 6, 7 & 8: all capable to Test 50s and even the occasional hundred as well as being exciting bowlers.

    Stuart Broad still lacks a little penetration in the longer game, but seems to have added a few km/h to his average speed and is approaching that point where an accurate bowler with high bounce can become a real handful for any batsman.

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