Stuart Broad on The Ashes: 'It suits me' - why fast bowler relishes Australian abuse
The prospect of being Public Enemy No 1 Down Under this winter excites the England man
Thursday 26 September 2013
The guy in the Audi started to panic. He had only stopped for some fuel and here was this giant of a man, whom he would vaguely have recognised, running towards him, waving his arms. He put the car into first and sped off. All Stuart Broad was trying to do was help him fill up.
If the BBC does another celebrity version of The Apprentice, Broad would be a natural. His task on the day we meet at the BP Hatton Cross garage close to Heathrow is to sell as many bottles of Maxinutrition protein milk in a given time. Thus far, four in the opening 10 minutes.
It will not be long before Broad is back at Heathrow preparing to fly into what Christopher Martin-Jenkins called Australia's "glorious blue sunshine" as part of an England team attempting to win four successive Ashes series for the first time in their history.
Arriving will be hard. That Broad's bowling has twice won the Ashes for England – at The Oval in 2009 and at Durham last month – would have made him a target. However, the Australia coach Darren Lehmann's comments that Broad was "a cheat" for refusing to walk at Trent Bridge in the first Test this summer and that this winter he should be made to "cry and go home" may have been apologised for but they will stick.
"There would have been many, many England cricketers in the 1990s and 2000s who would have relished the chance to get abuse from Australians because it would have meant they were feared," said Broad, who did cry on his last tour of Australia when a torn muscle forced him home during the Adelaide Test.
"There was always going to be some abuse flying around but with Lehmann's comments there will be more. But that suits me. I am quite reserved, almost shy off the field but as soon as I get on it, I change. I need a battle, a bit of niggle. I get that approach from dad. He was driven to play well for England."
Stuart was a few months old when his father, Chris, opened the batting on Mike Gatting's 1986-87 tour; the one in which a team that, according to this newspaper, could not bat, bowl or field retained the Ashes 2-1. Chris's contribution was three centuries, something not even Geoff Boycott had managed in a single series.
He scored three more the following winter but, astonishingly, was discarded soon afterwards. It seemed Chris Broad's manner mattered more than the runs he scored. In Sydney he smashed his wicket after scoring a fourth century in five Tests against Australia. In Lahore's Gaddafi Stadium (Pakistan really did name a cricket ground in honour of the old tyrant) he refused to walk after he palpably did not hit the ball. His son would be pilloried for not walking for one he did.
"I was actually surprised by the uproar at Trent Bridge because there were eight or nine Australians who didn't walk when they hit it and five or six Englishmen were the same," said Stuart. "I don't know why I was made an example of. It was only a big deal because the Aussies had wasted their reviews."
As the series wore on and it became clear there would be no great Australian revival, there were some voices who seemed uncomfortable with all this aggressively won English success. Michael Clarke's 187 at Old Trafford that briefly threatened to stem the tide was welcomed like rainfall in a heatwave.
"I think some people are uncomfortable because they are not used to winning aggressively and that is why this England team is a bit different. It has a huge desire to win," said Broad. "The biggest change in us is that we now know how to win moments of games. England don't dominate teams but we win the hour that counts."
There was no hour that counted more than the one after tea on the fourth day at Durham. Australia were 120 for 1, needing a further 179 to win and in the home dressing room voices were raised. "I was where I always am, sitting next to Matt Prior and he didn't believe we were bowling to our plan accurately enough.
"It was what I would call an honest discussion, the kind you can have in good teams – the problems come when the person doing the criticising doesn't believe in the bowlers. But I have known Matt since I walked into Loughborough University as an 18-year-old and found myself sharing a room with him. He believed we could do better.
"You can have 10 seconds of being angry at each other but then it's out in the open and you can discuss things properly. We had 20 minutes of the tea interval to sort our lives out, we couldn't waste time on pleasantries. We decided we had to bowl fuller, straighter and make the Australians drive rather than cut the ball.
"Tim Bresnan got Warner with a full ball that he played with a straight bat. We put a short leg in for Michael Clarke, there was some big theatre that he was going to be hit on the head, but we pitched in a fuller ball and bowled him off-stump. That chat won us the game." Broad finished with six wickets.
The irony is that Australia helped make Stuart Broad the player he is. He was 17 when he first took a flight to play grade cricket in Melbourne. Unlike Ian Botham, who confessed he found the country "big and empty, like its inhabitants", Broad enjoyed Australia: "I loved how competitive it is, the lifestyle, how crazy they are about sport.
"I was a very different person to the one I am now, just out of school, not a street-hardened cricketer at all. Then, I found myself opening the batting and bowling against tough Australian league cricketers who would be very aggressive on the field but who would buy you a beer straight after. I came back a bloke.
"Australian cricket was at its peak with Langer, Hayden, McGrath and Ponting in their pomp. I picked up that competitiveness and took it back to England which gave me a huge advantage and within two months I was playing first-team cricket for Leicestershire.
"There was never any pressure on me to become a professional sportsman. Mum was the one who drove me around the country to play cricket. She would read books while I played. You would see the other kids under so much pressure. If they got out early, they would be straight in their dad's car being lectured on what they had done wrong. The only question mum would ask on the way home was: 'Did you enjoy it?' She gave me a real perspective."
More perspective is supplied by the Broad Foundation, which raises awareness of motor neuron disease, a vicious, hateful condition which shuts the body down from within. It claimed the life of Stuart's stepmother, Michelle.
"She was a marvellous woman, it would be rare to meet such an outgoing, fun person," he said. "She loved being busy and travelled everywhere. The one place she always wanted to go was the Maldives. She never did and once the disease struck she never would. She told me that as a lesson, really, something to learn from her life.
"Until then, I'd always been a person who would put things off. 'Don't worry,' I'd tell people. 'I'll do it later'. It would be too much bother; too difficult to organise but, now Michelle's gone, if I want to go to Paris for the day, then I'll go to Paris for the day."
Stuart Broad is supporting the launch of Protein Milk, the practical protein drink for everyday champions. For more information on Protein Milk, please visit: www.maxinutrition.com
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