England in South Africa 2015-16 January 18, 2016

No. 1 Broad defers to top two

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Stuart Broad may have risen to No. 1 in the Test rankings but he insists he is neither the best bowler in the world nor even this England side.

Broad - the first England bowler to reach No. 1 in the rankings since Steve Harmison in 2004 - believes that Dale Steyn is "the bowler of our generation" and that James Anderson is "the best bowler England have ever had". Steyn is currently placed at No. 3 in the Test rankings, with Anderson at No. 5.

But Broad's spell in Johannesburg did reiterate the point that, given any help from the conditions, he can be devastating. With his sustained fitness - for which he credits the England support staff - appearing to help him contribute such spells more often, he has formed a potent partnership with Anderson. It bodes well for England that both are in the top five.

"I'm not going to walk away from this week thinking I'm a better bowler than Dale Steyn or Jimmy Anderson because that is not the case," Broad said. "But it is a nice feeling to have reached this mark through my performances.

"It is not something to take for granted and it is a very special thing to have happened. When you consider that only Ian Botham in the 1980s and Harmy in 2004 have been No. 1 as English bowlers, it is a lovely achievement.

"The biggest thing is that I've stayed fit. You can't take wickets on the physio bed can you? So a lot of credit has to go to the guys behind the scenes for keeping me fit and I also understand my body a bit more now. I've played nearly 40 Tests on the bounce now which is quite rare for a fast bowler.

"It might sound odd, but I'm not the best bowler in the world. Dale Steyn is the bowler of our generation. Just have a look at his record: his wickets; his strike rate; his average. He is the best bowler in the world.

"My dad always talks about Malcolm Marshall being the bowler of his generation. Well, Dale Steyn is the bowler of our generation.

"I've been very privileged to play with Jimmy Anderson for a long time and he is certainly the best bowler England have ever had in my view. I didn't see Fred Trueman and didn't watch much of Ian Botham live, so you have to judge it on who you've seen bowl."

While Broad is flattered by the "very special" achievement, he sees it not as an end in itself but as a marker on England's road of progress. Whatever happens in Centurion, they will rise no higher than No. 5 in the rankings at the end of this series. The aim, clearly, is to reach No. 1 but with a desperately tough series looming in India at the end of the year, Broad knows that ambition is still some way off fulfilment.

"This is not the end goal and it doesn't feel like the biggest thing right now because there is so much more going on with the team," he said. "I'm not being aloof or disrespectful, but there is such a determination in the side to get this team to No. 1.

"In saying that, when Trevor took over he did say that the only way to get the team to No. 1 is for individual players to start climbing the rankings. And we've had Rooty at No. 1 as a batsman, Jimmy and I have consistently been in the top five or six for a while and Stokesy is climbing high in the allrounders.

"There is such a goal for this team to become the best, and we know it is still a way off just now, but give this team another year's experience and then it really becomes an exciting time."

It may well not be a coincidence that Broad has risen through the rankings since he was dropped from England's white-ball teams. By the end of the 2014 England season, he was rated No. 8 in the world but, after a disappointing World Cup early in 2015, he was dropped from the limited-overs squads and as, as a consequence, has played red-ball cricket almost exclusively. As well as potentially helping with his fitness, that decision has enabled him to concentrate on maintaining the fuller length that has been a key ingredient in his improvement.

He retains hopes, however, of winning back his place in both the ODI and T20 sides and has ambitions to play in the 2019 World Cup in England. Indeed, he had thought that, with Steven Finn out of the rest of this tour, it was possible he could return to the limited-overs squad as his replacement; Liam Plunkett was called up instead.

"I'm desperate to play white-ball cricket again for England," he said. "You have a short career and I'm not going to play until I'm 37 or 38, so I want to play as much cricket as I possibly can.

"My consistency has got better with the red ball probably through playing more exclusively red-ball cricket. But I don't think the fitness thing is a direct correlation because I've taken the most Test wickets since 2011 and I've played white ball cricket through that, but I am as fit as I've ever been now.

"I'm as fresh as I've ever been, the knee surgery was the best decision I've ever made, and I'm loving my cricket.

"Yes, I do want to play in the ODIs. Absolutely. I haven't had any conversations about it. I'm happy for the selectors to do their thing, but I'll probably speak about it at some point.

"There is a lot of important white-ball cricket coming England's way with the World T20, the Champions Trophy and then the 2019 World Cup. I want to be involved.

"The dream of mine is to play in that World Cup and win it at home. That would be epic.

"It is still a long way away, but playing ODIs in England is important for that. I'm just looking to improve and I know I can make improvements in white-ball cricket, but I can also change games if given the chance."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lerato H Nyelele Mjoli on January 22, 2016, 16:34 GMT

    I can't believe some people will compare steyn with sami it's ridiculous....will be honest if it was not for steyn we will have never won a series in England, Australia or Sri Lanka. ..or drawn serieses in India. ...or bowled out teams for under 50 so many times at home had it not been for steyn so you can definitely put it this way the relationship between our x number 1 rank and steyn are directly proportional thus the 1st two series when he really gets injured we lose both......so d.steyn has been a pure champion of this last 10 years with no 1 even near him....before than they was magrath. ..with Warne and murali in the spinning department

  • Lerato H Nyelele Mjoli on January 22, 2016, 16:23 GMT

    good for you broad calling a spade a spade

  • DrJez on January 21, 2016, 10:52 GMT

    @liz1558. I think the 25 stat is a little misleading. First, we are in a batsman-friendly era, and I think that is because of conditions rather than lack of bowlers. Second, there have been one or two others, such as Ryan Harris, with good averages. And third, there have been several bowlers who drop below 25 for significant periods, but fail to maintain this for their whole career, or start slowly and then hit their best later - Broad and Anderson fit the latter description, for example. As for 1960s I would mention Trueman for one, though the list is not a long one, I accept.

  • liz1558 on January 20, 2016, 22:31 GMT

    It is a genuinely weak era for fast bowling - only Philander and Steyn averaging below 25. The mid 60s was comparable - a pretty flat period, with no really great bowlers of any description.

  • DavetheRave on January 20, 2016, 11:52 GMT

    It is a ludicrous pastime trying to compare fast bowlers of today with those of the past, and even comparison with each other of the same generation, because it is always the strength of the opposition at the time which decides who was good or bad at the time. I grew up watching Trueman in action many times, and he terrified most top batsmen. Broad's two most recent and famous feats against Australia and SA were achieved against sides in transition and in the process of losing formerly great batsmen. Is it likely that he would have achieved the same success against the mighty Aussies of the 90s with Hayden, Langer, Ponting, Warne et al in their prime? I seriously doubt it. Equally the current turmoil in the Saffers batting. Even Larwood at his peak might have struggled against them. And to claim that he or anyone else was the fastest ever bowler (as some do) is also very arguable. Just enjoy it for what it is and leave out the ridiculous comparisons.

  • DrJez on January 20, 2016, 10:25 GMT

    @diri. The history of the game goes back more than 30 years. FR Spofforth, GA Lohmann, SF Barnes, H Verity etc etc etc

  • Kingman75 on January 20, 2016, 9:46 GMT

    Diri, you have to be kidding. What a joke, Steyn the best ever! He barely gets in the top 10 fast bowlers. However he is the best of a weak generation.

  • MrCricket_Eng on January 20, 2016, 8:24 GMT

    @JOHN19 Did you see Broad take 8/15 on a pitch that England scored 400 on and declared?

  • JG2704 on January 20, 2016, 7:02 GMT

    @DEUCE03 ON JANUARY 20, 2016, 4:40 GMT - To be honest I think Broad is just making that statement to give his mate a pat on the back. As someone already put on here a certain batting average yesterdecade would have proven a player was world class whereas today the same average would prove a player is decent. I guess the same with bowling in reverse. I see there are many comms about the best in eras and it's always debatable but I'll throw a name into the hat for one of the best bowlers in the last 30 years or so and that's Richard Hadlee who has a very decent wickets per inns ratio and unlike others who are mentioned didn't have the quality alongside him

  • Deuce03 on January 20, 2016, 4:40 GMT

    Another "best ever" remark that has me sighing. Yes, Broad is right to say that it's hard to judge players you haven't seen - but in that case why make such sweeping statements? Realistically, the strongest contenders for the status of greatest batsman, all-rounder and bowler of all time all wound up their careers before Broad was born, and most of them before extensive footage was even available. England's best ever bowler was almost certainly Sydney Barnes, although George Lohmann is debatable. Trueman, Botham, Underwood and Willis are also worthy of consideration, if prewar figures are discounted entirely. Anderson might be the best *since Botham* but that's a much narrower period. Even then though, Darren Gough deserves a mention, and he played for much worse teams in general than Anderson has.