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England cricket

May 21, 2013

Time to stop barracking Broad

Edward Weech, UK


Stuart Broad takes the applause after his career-best 7 for 44, England v New Zealand, 1st Investec Test, Lord's, 4th day, May 19, 2013
Some of the criticism levelled at Stuart Broad -- he doesn't pitch it up; on his off days he can hardly hit the pitch; he's lazy etc. -- bear little if any relation to reality © PA Photos
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The barracking of Stuart Broad by vocal sections of the media and the cricket-viewing public has reached absurd proportions. Even a match-winning burst from Broad is taken by wide sections of cricket observers, and some sections of the media, as proof of a negative - 'He's inconsistent; he can only succeed on green-tops.'

Along with James Anderson and Graeme Swann, Broad was one of England's most consistent performers from 2009 to 2012; indeed, early in 2012 his Test bowling average dipped below Anderson's. Like the rest of the England bowlers, he suffered against South Africa in 2012, but still turned in probably England's best spell in that series, taking 5-69 at Headingley. On the tour of India, he had a serious heel injury that he tried to play through, and his form suffered. He made his return in New Zealand in March 2013 where he was England's best bowler; now he wins the first Test of the 2013 summer for England. So why all the criticism? Why do cricket writers make statements like "as a bowler he is barely better than average"?

Simplification and generalisation from writers are unhelpful and potentially dangerous if overused. Some of the criticism levelled at Broad -- he doesn't pitch it up; on his off days he can hardly hit the pitch; he's lazy etc. -- bear little if any relation to reality, sometimes making me wonder if I'm watching the same game as the people who say these things. The danger is that through repetition, people start believing these things. Fortunately, the England management is strong and sensible enough not to listen to this sort of drivel. However, once Andy Flower goes, there is a good chance that will change.

It's starting to remind me of the narrative that was built up around Robin Smith in the early 1990s. Smith was an exceptional player of fast bowling and an average player of spin. But over time, and after his understandable problems against Shane Warne, a narrative was built up around Smith that suggested he couldn't play spin bowling at all, and that he was a liability to the team. Smith's England career was not helped by the constant media chuntering that he shouldn't be in the team, and his mooted replacements never fared any better than he did. Indeed, they invariably did worse, and England were left without a batsman who finished with a Test average of 43. This, at a time when most England batsmen averaged in the low 30s. It won't be very different if Broad gets sidelined; remember Tino Best larruping Graham Onions and Steven Finn for 95 last summer?

Broad is much more secure in his position than Smith was in the 90s. But why does the media need to create these false narratives? And why can't fans just appreciate what they've got?

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Posted by   on (May 23, 2013, 13:45 GMT)

Qeng-Ho, the bowlers you name are very good, and they are also all older than Broad. Give him a couple of years (maybe even a couple of months) and his Test average will be under 30 as well. Also, amaltn was referring to an average of 26 rather than 30.

Posted by Qeng_Ho on (May 23, 2013, 12:07 GMT)

Amaltn, just to clarify, Peter Siddle, Mitchell Johnson and Morne Morkel all average under 30 and have 100 wickets. Hilfenhaus averages under 30 and has 99 wickets. Philander averages 17 and has 89 wickets. There may well be more but I haven't looked all that hard.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2013, 11:21 GMT)

cloudmess -- I very much agree and I think this issue touches on a broader point about how England's cricketers are appreciated. Flintoff is the most extreme case in recent years, I suppose; the adulation he got after the 2005 Ashes fed his weaknesses and he's now effectively outcast from the cricket establishment.

I also thought that Saker's comments were ill-judged and seemed almost to be written with headlines in mind. Why does Anderson need to be built up as the best, especially when that is a highly dubious claim? Why isn't it enough that he is an excellent bowler?

Posted by amaltn on (May 22, 2013, 10:37 GMT)

I can't understand what the fuss is all about. Broad is a very good bowler who has the potential to be great. He has shown it in patches. And I do agree that the consistency is lacking and that is what sets the greats apart from the "very goods". But you also have to consider that he is hardly 27 and yet to peak. If you take Jimmy Anderson's career, it is only in the past 3-4 years that he has blossomed into the bowler he is now. And even now his average is just above 30 in tests. Broad's average after all this scrutiny is just a shade above 31 which in this day and age is a good effort. Apart from Dale Steyn, there isn't a single bowler in the world with over 100 test wickets who averages below 26. So to put things into perspective stats wise Broad is doing just fine. I am a die hard Tendulkar fan. Disheartening as it was to watch Broad trouble the little master in 2011 , it was also proof that he is a lad with alot of talent and skill. So let him be.............

Posted by cloudmess on (May 22, 2013, 9:54 GMT)

I agree for the most part with this. We (the fans) and the media, never quite keep things in perspective - we firstly build up huge, unrealistic expectations, and then when our team disappoints our criticism is over the top and mean-spirited. Never mind what people are saying about Broad - I feel that Saker's words about Anderson - "mind blowing" and "best in the world" - are a kind of kiss of death - if Anderson doesn't now win the Ashes single-handedly, he will come in for some very rough media treatment. What I would say about 20 years of watching English cricket is that we have a way of turning out very good cricketers who are able to perform as world class players for a year or two - but never consistently for any longer period. Would anyone now say the likes of Atherton, Stewart, Gough, Fraser, Vaughan, Trescothick, Harmison, Flintoff are among the 'greats' of the game? The only consistently world class player we've had in our team for the last decade has been a South African.

Posted by   on (May 22, 2013, 8:48 GMT)

Thank you Ross, that's a good example of the type of exaggeration I'm talking about.

Posted by Harlequin. on (May 22, 2013, 8:39 GMT)

More perhaps than his performances, it is his attitude fans/media have a problem with. Looking at his careless batting over the past few years, watching him throw a strop at a fielder when he's just bowled a half-volley, seeing him appeal for a caught behind with out turning round to the umpire - these actions hardly endear him to the audience and because of that we are far likely to comment on his numerable failures. If he grows up and sorts his attitude out, then it will probably be a bit more apparent to everyone watching that he is consistently putting effort in and not taking his coveted test spot for granted.

Posted by   on (May 21, 2013, 21:09 GMT)

It's because at times he can bowl like he did in the second innings against NZ, but other times looks like he'd struggle to bowl his own grandmother out.

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