Broad silences detractors after shaking off the enforcer tag
England all-rounder admits that bowling full and being less irritable helped him to man-of-the-series award
One of the hallmarks of bowlers in great sides is to defy the critics and show that they know their areas from their elbows. Four weeks ago, calls for Stuart Broad to be dropped by England were deafening.
He was out of sorts with the world, he had stopped taking wickets. Broad was just too short. On Monday, after England had secured their 4-0 victory against India and utterly asserted their right to be the top-ranked Test team in the world, Broad was made man of the series.
In each of the four matches, he was influential, invariably with the ball, often with the bat. He took 25 wickets at 13.84 each, scored 182 runs, including two fifties, at 60.67.
"It has been a big learning curve," he said yesterday. "In my short career, it was the first time this summer I have been put under a huge amount of pressure like that. You do start asking questions of yourself.
"Those questions needed answering. It doesn't matter what people think outside the changing room but for me personally it meant working out what type of bowler I wanted to be and what was the best way to take Test wickets and help the side out."
Perhaps Broad had grown too comfortable, perhaps he had become confused about what type of bowler he ought to be. In some quarters he was seen as the enforcer, a ridiculous title for a bowler, especially when everyone should know it is a Fifties film starring Humphrey Bogart.
Whether because of this or not, he began dealing in short balls, if not exclusively then as a first resort. In the three Tests against Sri Lanka he managed eight wickets at nearly 50. If the selectors were not thinking of bringing his Test career to a temporary closure they should have been. Out in the shires it was open season on Broad.
The turning point was a single match he played for Nottinghamshire against Somerset when he bowled in fits and starts but finished with five wickets in the first innings and the prized wicket of Marcus Trescothick with a beauty in the second. It did the trick.
"To go away and play for Notts and get a five-for pitching the ball up a week before the Test gave me a lot of confidence," he said. "That was how I wanted to bowl in this series but then for it to happen straight away at Lord's, to pick up four wickets and could have potentially had more, that length showed me the way to go."
He has been a delight to watch and the resultant good form has made him less irritable too. He appears to have made a conscious effort to be calmer, applauding rather than berating his colleagues. Broad has come out of this a smarter cricketer.
"My bouncer is a dangerous weapon and always will be for me," he said. "But to use that once as a surprise every over makes that fuller ball more dangerous. I think throughout this series it is my fuller ball that has got the wickets and now we can call Bressy the enforcer." Bressy being Tim Bresnan, who is much more suited to the Bogart role.
Broad, in common with most of the rest of the side which won by an innings and eight runs on Monday, is rested for the one-day international in Dublin against Ireland tomorrow. This is perfectly sensible, as is allowing the team's coach, Andy Flower, the chance to have the match off.
This is not to demean its status as a full international, not least since England will be desperate to win after losing an astonishing match to Ireland in the last World Cup. But England should be able to win, even if all four newcomers to the squad play, not to mention the four others with fewer than five matches.
Flower said: "The Irish side is a very good one and a lot of their cricketers have a lot of first-class experience and a lot of international experience now so we are going to have to be at the top of our game to beat them at home.
"Our Test cricketers need a break and that is why we've picked the side we have and then it is into the T20 and one-day series with India which is very important in its own right.
"It is important because they are the world champions and because we are a one-day side that are determined to improve. We want to improve our skills and knowledge in the one-day game. It is also important in our development towards the T20 World Cup in Sri Lanka just over a year away and it is important in our development towards the 2015 World Cup."
Things have changed forever now, of course. The formats might be different, the team might have changed but if Ireland were somehow to beat England again tomorrow their bragging would be understandable and along the lines of the fact that they had beaten the world's best side. Their joy would only be enhanced by the fact that England's captain for the match is Eoin Morgan.
"He's a confident young man," Flower said. "He is confident in his ideas about the game, he chooses his words carefully and he doesn't waste words and I think the way he plays and approaches the game is important in a leader and people will follow a man like that."
Morgan is an England player and London resident but an Irishman (and Dubliner to boot) by birth, upbringing and accent. Should be fun.
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