Broad: a new hero takes fame in his stride
Amid the fervour, England's blue-eyed boy of the future keeps his feet on the ground
Tuesday 25 August 2009
Nothing it seems, fazes Stuart Broad. Whether described as the next Andrew Flintoff, talked about as English sport's newest sex symbol or even promoted as a candidate to model fancy underwear, the only response is a knowing smile and a string of sensible words.
By taking five wickets in the space of 47 balls at The Oval, Broad changed his life. He may not fully appreciate that yet, but he will. In just a few overs of top-quality fast bowling, the 23-year-old not only put England on the road to an Ashes-clinching victory but also guaranteed that his picture would be used on front as well as back pages, in magazines and on billboards.
Not only that, but a private life that has probably never required much protecting will now need a little more guarding. "I don't think they have paparazzi in Nottingham," said Broad. If they don't, they will soon, Stuart.
British sport is not that blessed with heroes it can afford to let a new one slip quietly by, and certainly not a young man with twinkling eyes, boyish good looks and a clean-cut image.
But, then again, English cricket is certainly not sufficiently loaded with talent, despite this week's Ashes triumph, to allow a potential superstar to have his head turned by talk of being able to earn £2m over the next 12 months from deals outside of batting and bowling. Happily, all the signs are that Andrew Strauss, Andy Flower and the team's selectors need not worry about their new box office property losing his way.
"I like to think I'm a decent judge of character and I've got some very good people around me," said Broad. "And if I ever got out of line my mum would soon tell me.
"It's an exciting time and the attention is not something that fazes me. And, anyway, I've not really got the body to be posing in underwear like David Beckham. But my pure focus is on cricket. I love playing cricket, love training for cricket and everything that comes with cricket.
"You have to perform for England for off-the-field things to happen. I want to play 100 Tests for England, I want to be the leading one-day wicket-taker. And, more importantly, I want to win World Cups for England, I want to win Ashes series in Australia and make England the best team in the world.
"That prospect is the thing that really excites me the most and is the thing that helps me get out of bed when I've bowled 30 overs the day before and my knees are barking."
Talking of knees brings us neatly to Andrew Flintoff. By now, England's former Test all-rounder will have had yet another operation and be awaiting news of when, or if, he can think about starting to play again. With any luck, Broad and Flintoff should appear together in many more limited-over games but, so far as five-day cricket is concerned, the baton passes to a young up and comer.
"It's been a privilege and an honour to have played with Fred," says Broad. "And he's not only superb on the field but off it is as well and I can't thank him enough.
"But I'm not going to try to emulate anyone, really, I'm just going to see how it goes. My only focus is on putting in the hard yards and then whatever will be will be. Yes, my profile may have been raised but that does not help me to get runs and wickets.
"We will be training in Belfast tomorrow ahead of a one-day international against Ireland and I will be in the nets working on my batting and bowling.
"Whenever you play international sport it is quite highly pressured. I think I've dealt with that quite well in the past couple of years and I don't think that will change in the next couple. My aim is to make myself a better cricketer every day.
"I'm certainly not under any more pressure now than I was yesterday or three weeks ago in terms of my role in the team."
Well, that is open to debate. But Flower, the England coach who comes across as an extremely good judge of character, has no concerns about Broad's development as a person or a cricketer.
"One of the things that stands out for me is that Stuart is quite a street-wise young man," says Flower. "The other thing is that he is a very competitive sportsman, and they are great qualities for cricketers to have.
"He is very much his own man – he won't be replacing Freddie at all. But I think he will become a world class all-rounder."
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