Stuart Broad woke up on the morning after England's Ashes victory with the broadest grin of his life - which is just as well really, because overnight, his life had changed beyond recognition. The Man of the Match in the decisive Test of the series, Broad's career has just achieved vertical take-off. All manner of accolades await him as a result, and according to some estimates, he is tipped to earn £2 million in commercial deals alone. He's going to need shoulders as broad as that grin if he's to carry those heightened expectations.
Fortunately Broad is as grounded as they come. At the age of 23, he's well aware that his career is still in its infancy, and as his struggles to make headway in the first three Tests demonstrated, there are sure to be more days in the coming months when his learning will have to be done on the hoof. Nevertheless, with a pedigree upbringing through his father Chris, whose three centuries in Australia made him the star of the 1986-87 Ashes, he's as well placed as any young player to maintain a cricket-centric focus.
"I don't think winning the Ashes has really sunk in yet," he said, less than 24 hours after the victory had been sewn up. "When I went downstairs there were photographers outside the front, snapping away. I was thinking to myself 'why are they doing that?' Then I remembered, 'Ah yes, the Ashes.'"
He's going to have to get used to those snappers. Just as 2005 transformed Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen into household names and public property, so 2009 is sure to have a similar effect on arguably England's most marketable cricketer for a generation. His looks, his youth and his undeniable talent have already conferred him the status of cricket's David Beckham - and his current deal with a protein-drinks manufacturer, which has led to his picture appearing on several platforms on the London Underground, is unlikely to be his last.
"Maximuscle ... ironic, isn't it?" he joked, referring to his relative lack of physical bulk, although seeing as he has already posed naked (with a cricket bat for modesty) in a women's magazine, he's not got too many issues on that front. As for the rest of those trappings of fame, he's equally relaxed. "You don't get paparazzi in Nottingham," he added. "But that isn't something that fazes me. It is an exciting time, but there are good people around me. My mum is clued up and my dad thinks he is. My life won't change. My profile may have been raised, but that won't get me runs or wickets."
Broad is an astute young man who's already reaping the rewards of one of the cannier decisions of the cricketing year. By opting not to put himself forward for this year's IPL, he spared himself the limelight until such time as he was ready, and spared his body the rigours of another three weeks on the road. As the injured pair of Flintoff and Pietersen might privately attest after their ill-fated stints in South Africa, the break proved to be utterly beneficial in the long run.
"The reason I didn't go was to focus on the Ashes and that really worked out for me," said Broad. "I managed to play in all five Tests and make useful contributions to us winning, so that decision was certainly worthwhile. The IPL will, sometime in my career, help me develop as a Twenty20 cricketer, because it's a great competition and a great spectacle. But it all depends on how I and my body are feeling, and if anyone wants me." On that final point, it won't be a case of who, but how many.
Nobody in the England camp doubts that he's got what it takes to go all the way to the top. Andy Flower, the coach, spoke of Broad's streetwise attitude and his competitive instincts, never better exemplified than when he went eyeball-to-eyeball with Mitchell Johnson at Edgbaston, while Flintoff is confident that his allrounder mantle has been passed into safe hands, and that his performances will only improve with age.
"He is very different," said Flintoff. "You forget how young he is - the music he puts on shows it sometimes in the dressing room - however, he is only 22 or 23. He is playing the most intense cricket against the best team in the world at the highest level. Compare him to a doctor or a surgeon, these people wait until they are 40 or 50 to be the best in their field. For a young kid to come along at that age and be the best - so far he is living up to it.
"For the next ten years we are going to see the best of Stuart Broad," said Flintoff. "It is unfair to compare him to myself or [Ian] Botham. Let's just let him progress and if you do that he will have a very exciting and great career ahead of him."
Broad, for the moment, is not getting ahead of himself. "It is a bit surreal being mentioned in the same sentence," he said of the Botham and Flintoff comparisons. "I am certainly not an allrounder like those two. I would love to score big hundreds and am willing to put in the hard yards to do that, but at the moment when I get to 30 or so I start thinking about all the shots I can play. A proper batsman, at that point, would knuckle down. I would love a move up the order, but probably not yet."
One step at a time is all that Broad intends to take, starting with a step onto the plane to Belfast for Thursday's one-day international against Ireland. Now there's a trip designed to nip the mounting hype in the bud.