Stuart Broad still sees a touch of the absurd in the idea that he has a face people recognise, even though he has already played for England, in Test matches, one-day internationals and Twenty20 games, more than a hundred times. "It's nice," he says. "It is an honour that people want to have their picture taken with you or ask for your autograph. But it still feels a bit bizarre."
He has had to make adjustments. A quiet drink with friends in a bar is no longer realistic. When he does go out he is inevitably spotted, sometimes in uncomfortable situations. "I went to Alton Towers the other day, with a couple of mates and my girlfriend's little sister. We were on Air [a ride which simulates flying] when the operator saw me and stopped it, just like that, so he could shake my hand. He was saying 'thanks for winning the Ashes' and I was still dangling there in mid-air. I said: 'It's a pleasure – but could you please let me down?' "
Broad wears his fame if not reluctantly then with care. At 23, he is young enough to have watched (with a certain admiration) Andrew Flintoff turn into "unsteady Freddie" during the 2005 Ashes celebrations, yet the decision by England's 2009 Ashes winners not to enjoy themselves with the abandon of their predecessors had his support.
Take five Aussie wickets in the decisive final Test, however, and you can hardly expect no one to notice. Broad appeared on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, after which it seemed a shade rich, recalling the inebriated open-top bus ride and the tipsy reception at Number 10, for Michael Vaughan to warn Broad via his newspaper column not to "get carried away".
Was he not irked to be criticised in that way, given that it was a rare venture into celebrity territory? "Rare? It was the only one," he says. "I can only think that Vaughany saw that one show and assumed I was doing more. But I had a night out with him in Johannesburg and it wasn't even mentioned."
Broad's humility contrasts with the air of self-assurance he takes on to the field, where officials as well as opponents have seen an insubordinate side to his nature. Yet he appreciates his good fortune in progressing so far so quickly and especially having coaches, captains and selectors with faith in his ability. "That's been very important," he says. "I struggled for the first three Tests last summer, a lot of the media were talking about me being left out and there is no doubt that in years gone by I would have been.
"Getting back-to-back five-fors and winning the Ashes series would never have happened. But not once did Andy Flower or Andrew Strauss put any doubt in my mind. They backed me the whole way."
With the heady moments at The Oval still fresh, Broad asserts unhesitatingly that Test cricket will never be dislodged at the summit of the game, no matter how much Twenty20 grows.
"It is the pinnacle, the ultimate test of mental and physical capabilities. Every English player wants to get their Test cap, see their name on the honours board at Lord's, win an Ashes series, be part of a legacy of success. There is nothing better than walking through the members' area at Lord's and hearing the champagne corks pop on the first morning of a Test.
"Twenty20 would not be the same if the players had not learned their skills in the longer form of the game. For that reason, four-day cricket is an important part of the county set-up. And people come to watch Twenty20 because they are seeing the big names, the Ricky Pontings and the Kevin Pietersens, who have made their name in Test match cricket."
As it happens, Twenty20 will provide Broad's next action, for England in the West Indies early next month. There will be no pedalo rides but the comparisons with Flintoff have not yet gone away. "I have never compared myself with him. He is a batsman who turned himself into one of the best bowlers in the world. I'm a bowler who wants to be a useful batsman. I'll never be as good as him with the bat but hopefully I can develop into a similar sort of bowler."
Currently Broad is with his county, Nottinghamshire, but he is not playing. They may see little of him in 2010, which makes you wonder if there is any point. "Actually, it is important to be connected to a good county. When you are not playing for England you want to come back into a good environment and it is a great dressing room. I wish I could play more but it's catch-22. If I did, it would be because I was not playing for England and I want to play for England as much as possible."Reuse content