Ashes 2013-14: Was baiting Stuart Broad the stupidest recent decision by Australia?

'Operation Broad', designed to unsettle the England paceman, backfired spectacularly on the first day
  • @cwjreynolds

In any other year Australia's decision to pick an uncapped teenager for July's Ashes opener at Trent Bridge would almost certainly have been their stupidest, but then 2013 has not been a normal year for the bungling boys in baggy greens.

Instead that award must surely go to the mastermind that decided that it would be a good idea to try and rile Stuart Broad.

Over the years Broad has never been the most popular player, even amongst his side's own supporters, attracting criticism for everything from displays of petulance to seemingly just having blonde hair.

However he really attracted Aussie opprobrium when he decided not to walk at Trent Bridge, ironically enough a habit he almost certainly picked up when playing for a Melbourne club side as a teenager.

From that infamous moment on he has been the target of all Australia's ire as their misguided campaign to undermine his confidence clanked into action.

Darren Lehmann started things off with a slightly bizarre interview for Australian radio station Triple M, labeling Broad a cheat and adding:

"I just hope the Australian public give it to [Broad] right from the word go for the whole summer and I hope he cries and he goes home."

Considering Broad had arguably been England's stand out fast bowler over the summer and certainly never a player short of belief in his own ability it instantly seemed like an unwise move.

However with a sense of determination sadly lacking from many of their side's recent batting performances, the Australian media and public nobly adhered to Boof's masterplan.

One patriotic company created special 'Stuart Broad is a cheat' themed t-shirts, announcing with a ludicrous lack of perspective:

"We specialise in T-Shirts protesting wrongs which deserve attention. Our first two causes are to protest against Japanese whaling and the cheating by Stuart Broad in the recent Ashes tour of the UK."

The local media have been even more vehement in their attacks, labelling him 'Stuart Fraud' as well as a 'smug Pommie cheat' outlining a plan to not talk about him, in an article that confusingly and self-defeatingly made the front page of Brisbane's Courier Mail.

However with a marvellously satisfying sense of inevitability, Australia's puerile plan pony has stumbled over the first fence and will surely now have to be destroyed.

Broad struck in the third over of the day and never looked back. First Chris Rogers went, then Shane Watson, whose dismissal just before lunch was as gratifying as the dismayed "Aww no" that escaped his mouth just after he edged the ball to Graeme Swann in the slips.

He soon added the scalps of Michael Clarke and David Warner to clean up Australia's entire top four and he ultimately finished the day with figures of 5/65, the key man in reducing Australia to 273/8.

As tactical masterstrokes go, 'Operation Broad' is fast appearing as naïve as the Schlieffen Plan, although this is perhaps one campaign that really could all be over by Christmas.