England hopes rest on Broad shoulders
Monday 02 November 2009
Stuart Broad's progress is likely to be one of the key factors in the coming months as England seek to ensure history does not repeat itself with another Ashes-winning hangover.
Captain Andrew Strauss was part of the team which scored a shock series victory at home to Australia in 2005, only to follow up with an off-colour winter on the sub-continent - which began with a 2-0 defeat in Pakistan.
This time, of course, he is in charge of a team who have again beaten Australia and face a tough first winter assignment.
For Pakistan, read Test cricket's number one team South Africa.
There is another difference too, though - because Andrew Flintoff was the cornerstone of England's team four years ago, whereas Broad has been identified by many as the man to take over the all-rounder's mantle since his predecessor's retirement from Test cricket after an Ashes-clinching win at The Oval two months ago.
As England today take the first steps of their initial preparation in Bloemfontein for the limited-overs leg of their South Africa tour, Strauss has already made it clear it is unfair of anyone to expect 23-year-old bowling all-rounder Broad to step straight into Flintoff's boots at a time when his skills are still developing.
"Stuart has his head screwed on. There has been a lot of media attention on him, but he realises that there's much room for him to improve," said the captain.
"He's excited about that and he's very keen to contribute to this team.
"We're excited about him, but the last thing I want to do is put a huge amount of expectation on his shoulders.
"You must give people room to improve, and we hope he'll continue that development this winter."
Strauss is one person who will not be sucked into any unreasonable demands on Broad to be an instant and direct replacement for a player England have often had to get by without before, given Flintoff's struggles with injuries.
"It's not a realistic expectation for Broad to fill Flintoff's shoes in both disciplines in the short term," he spells out.
"It would be wrong to heap that expectation on his shoulders.
"Over the years, we've had to do without Flintoff quite often - and what we've found is that we've done quite well by everyone taking responsibility and playing a bit better.
"Stuart Broad is not a like-for-like replacement for Flintoff anyway. But he has his own set of skills, some of which are world class and some of which need work.
"We don't want him to be the saviour we turn to - we need all 11 to do that."
As for that post-Ashes feeling, Strauss is determined there will be no re-run of the 2005/06 let-down - although he takes issue with suggestions England's problems four years ago were of their own making.
"The perception of the post-2005 period is that we took our eye off the ball quite badly," he recognises.
"I'm not comfortable with that myself.
"I remember that Pakistan tour and how hard we worked at it. We had a number of very crucial injuries - which didn't help."
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