Broad says death of step-mother forced him to grow up fast
All-rounder improving temperament after realising there are 'more important things'
Friday 29 July 2011
Whatever fuelled Stuart Broad's outstanding bowling in the first Test against India at Lord's, the England fast bowler would like it to be known that it was not anger. Well, not at the Press for suggesting that it was time for him to be replaced in the Test side by Tim Bresnan, anyway.
"I don't read the papers so I didn't see any of that build-up really, though I wouldn't have needed reminding that I hadn't been at my best," Broad acknowledged this week. He insists he prepared for the match as he always does, as though he was a certain starter, and that there was no sense of relief when he got the nod.
"It was one of those things, if you get picked you get picked, and if you don't you go and get wickets elsewhere. Obviously you're always delighted when you get the call, but I never really had too many doubts to be honest.
"I have been struggling a bit this summer, had a couple of little niggles, strained my ankle ligaments before the Twenty20 at Bristol and had a bruised heel, so it has been a little bit frustrating, but as a fast bowler I think anyone playing at the top level will tell you that's part and parcel of it and, as I say, once I got the nod I was extremely focused on what I had to do."
A pause. "And I don't think I could have answered the critics in any higher way, really, getting 70 not out and getting seven wickets in the game, and some pretty important wickets in there."
For all that he may not read the papers, then, there isn't much doubt that the 25-year-old was fully aware of what was being said.
The most irritating criticism, judging by his reaction, was that he had taken the label of "Team Enforcer" – perhaps somewhat unfortunately placed on him by England bowling coach David Saker – a little too seriously and was consistently bowling too short.
As a consequence, the eight wickets he took in the three Tests against Sri Lanka had come at an average of not much less than 50 while he conceded close to four runs an over.
As Broad points out, however, the modern international fast bowler doesn't – or shouldn't – look to rough up the opposition for the sake of it.
"When you bowl short you're always bowling to a team's plan, whether it's Sachin Tendulkar or Zaheer Khan, we spend hours in meeting rooms discussing where to bowl at these guys. So it's always a strict plan what we're doing.
"The wicket is important too, and there was a difference between this Lord's wicket and the Sri Lanka wicket. The Sri Lanka wicket was very batsman friendly, and the full ball was just getting driven for four because it was just so true and kissing on. Whereas you looked at this Lord's wicket, and I can't remember the short ball being in the game particularly – Kevin [Pietersen] gloved one, but it was really hard to bowl a decent short ball, and there was a little bit of swing.
"I think as a template that's the style of bowler I want to be, that's the length of ball I want to be aiming at, and looking back, the week before, going to play for Notts at Trent Bridge where there is value in pitching the ball up and swinging it, I think that did me a lot of good. And putting the cover fielder in to encourage the drive was useful."
Keeping a lid on his temper when umpire Billy Bowden turned down two apparently stone dead leg-before appeals, one against the great Tendulkar himself, was another indication of his determination to distance himself from the "angry fast bowler" image. But it was also, Broad believes, a sign that his still boyish face notwithstanding, he's growing up.
In that respect, the Broad Appeal, launched last year by Broad, his father Chris, the former England Test batsman, and his sister Gemma to raise money for research into Motor Neurone disease after the death of Chris's second wife Miche, has been a huge factor.
"Over the past year I've been very aware that cricket – even international cricket – isn't the most important thing in life. When I was younger everything was very easy, everything revolved around cricket.
"The thing is that realising there are much more important things in life can also help with your cricket as well. You often see people get better with age on the cricket field, and I'm sure that's one of the reasons behind it, there are times when you need to refresh yourself and get yourself in a really good frame of mind.
"Miche wanted to help with the research side of the disease and it feels as though it has been really worthwhile."
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