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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