Broad begins emotional journey after family struck by tragedy

England's lead bowler is ready for Pakistan but has one eye on matching his father's feat Down Under

There has never been much doubt about the passion and commitment underpinning Stuart Broad's cricket, as a number of umpires will testify. He likes to be "in the face" of his opponents, doing as much intimidating as can be achieved with boyish looks and a beanpole frame.

Yet it will be with more than aggressive bravado that Broad begins an emotional journey at Trent Bridge on Thursday, with the final Test at Sydney in January, amid celebrations of an England series victory, the projected destination. It will be a journey driven by the twin forces of pride and tragedy.

It starts in his home city, from which, 24 years ago, his father set off as a member of the last England side to win the Ashes in Australia. Stuart was less than five months old. It would be the defining winter of Broad senior's career, indelibly forged in three consecutive Test centuries. Later, he declared that baby Stuart had been his lucky mascot.

They have shared a strong relationship since, despite the break-up of the original family. Sadly, immediately after this summer's first Test against Pakistan, they will reinforce their bond in grief. The funeral of Chris's second wife, Miche, takes place a week today.

Stuart's stepmother died three weeks ago from motor neurone disease. "It has been tough," Stuart said. "On the bright side, the whole family [his sister, Gemma, works for the England team as an analyst] have been here to support dad.

"He's OK. He did the Test matches between Australia and Pakistan [Broad senior is an ICC match referee] to keep busy. The funeral is on 3 August and the organising of that has been tough but once that has finished it will be all about remembering the happy times."

The family are pulling together to raise awareness and money for the Motor Neurone Disease Association. "We raised £20,000 from a cricket tournament at Wellesbourne Cricket Club in Warwickshire and my mum did a lunch on Sunday that raised £4,000. Bizarrely, my mum got on really well with my stepmum. She was such an outgoing, buzzy personality everyone really warmed to her."

The 1986-87 tour shaped Stuart's upbringing, even though he was too young to remember it. "We had a video called On Top Down Under, which was about the series and I always used to watch it. With pride, too, because of my dad's role.

"He is an inspiration. He was known for his passion, his strength, for delivering his skills under pressure. But he is always there for me too, when I need him."

His own first recollections of England in Australia were formed on the living room couch. "At the age of 10 or 12 I remember staying up to watch on TV, or at least the first hour or so until I fell asleep.

"It was tough because we didn't win a series. We would always listen to Aggers [Jonathan Agnew] on the radio saying Australia had won again, which I suppose gave me a bigger hunger to put the record straight. Whenever we talk about our careers, dad will always have the upper hand until we have won in Australia."

Broad anticipates a tricky series against Pakistan, especially after seeing their bowlers harness English conditions so effectively against Australia, yet it is clear that the Ashes will be the reference point for anything that might be achieved over the next four Tests.

Broad's preparations have involved almost as much time in the gym as on the field. He missed the home Tests against Bangladesh in favour of strength and conditioning work, organised by England but with input from Maximuscle, the sports nutrition company that sponsors Broad and fellow fast bowler, Steven Finn.

"The work has paid off. I've been getting a bit more zip off the wicket and been able to bowl 12 or 15-over spells like I did against Warwickshire last week, which was only my second red ball game since January."

Broad took a career-best 8 for 52 (left) for Notts in that game but, more importantly, proved himself ready for the rigours of a Test match after 16 consecutive one-day internationals. "I was stiff after bowling 20 overs on the first day but after the second innings I didn't pull up stiff at all. It is just getting the body used to it and as a result I feel fresh and ready."

Looking ahead again, he accepts the supposition that the current Australians may be less formidable than past versions, but with the proviso that no Australian side should be underestimated.

"Any team that loses Warne, McGrath, Hayden, Langer, Gilchrist in the space of two years is not going to be as strong as when these boys were in their pomp. But they still have world-class players.

"Even so, I feel this England team has an opportunity to create a legacy for the future in the same way as my father's team."

Stuart Broad uses Maximuscle, Europe's leading sports nutrition brand to maximise his sporting performance. See www.maximuscle.com.

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