Stuart Broad: Taking comfort from Jimmy Anderson's revival
England paceman has been struggling with form and fitness but he has been inspired by success of his fellow fast bowler
Sunday 12 May 2013
He has contributed to two successful Ashes campaigns, helped England win an ICC title and is captain of his country at Twenty20 level. Stuart Broad's career has known troughs as well as peaks, but when reflecting on what he has accomplished it is hard to believe that he is still only 26.
Barring injury, Broad will begin his eighth summer as an England player on Thursday, when New Zealand arrive at Lord's for the First Test. During that time Broad has delighted and frustrated, yet as he tries to plan the second half of his career the Nottinghamshire player draws encouragement from the path followed by his international team-mate Jimmy Anderson.
In his early 20s, Anderson displayed immense talent but little consistency. In the past five years, he has grown into one of the world's finest seam bowlers – and Broad hopes he can do the same.
"Before the Test against New Zealand in Wellington in March, I had quite an interesting wake-up call, because that was where Jimmy and I came into the side together in March 2008," Broad said.
"Jimmy was nearly 26 when he came back into the side for that game but he told me he hadn't looked back since, and during those five years he'd developed into the bowler he is today. I sat back and thought to myself, 'I'm only 26 now' – more or less the same age as Jimmy when he was recalled to the Test team. It excited me, just seeing how Jimmy's rise had gone and thinking about how much improvement there could be in my game too.
"Jimmy's figures before he turned 26 weren't particularly special – he averaged 39 with the ball – but since then they've been phenomenal, so there is a lot of potential for me to improve over the next few years."
It should be heartening for England's supporters to hear Broad speaking with so much optimism after a winter in which he grappled with both form and fitness. He was dropped for the Third Test against India in Kolkata and had to leave the tour before the final Test in Nagpur because of a heel injury. He missed England's 2-1 series triumph, and although he was chosen for the New Zealand tour early this year, the heel bothered him to such a degree early on the tour that he began to wonder whether it would have a severe influence on his future in the game.
There was genuine concern about how effectively the problem – the result of a lacerated fat-pad in his left heel – could be managed. Yet extensive work with England's medical team, coupled with the use of special boots that give Broad's foot extra cushioning in the delivery stride, have made the situation rosier.
Broad collected 11 wickets as the three-match series in New Zealand was drawn 0-0 and while he knows the problem could return at any time, he is now more sanguine about it. "Now that it seems fine, I can be that free spirit again and just play," he said. "The problem is still there and I know it could come back at any time, but I've now got these boots, which have changed my world around.
"When I bowl I'm landing on a really soft material, which has really helped the impact. When I'm training or playing, I more or less live in tape, which is a bit annoying, but then it's only 15 minutes every day strapping the ankle, and it's a technique used in a lot of sports."
New Zealand have already shown they have the potential to place England under strain and they must not be taken lightly. It is difficult for any player, however, not to look at the Ashes battle that lies ahead – and Broad is no different.
"We've got a quest to get back to the top of the world Test rankings and the opportunity to win four Ashes series on the bounce, and it would be amazing to be a part of that. I've been working really hard to improve and I've done a lot of bowling to left-handed batsmen, because the Aussies have so many of them.
"I'd love to keep developing my batting, too, and contribute with another Test hundred to keep helping England. I feel in a good place to make a serious contribution this year."
Broad was interviewed while being dressed by McCann Bespoke, who are donating 10 per cent from any suits purchased between 6 June and 25 August to the Broad Appeal to help fight motor neurone disease. Go to @TheBroadAppeal or www.mccannbespoke.com
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