John Townsend on the Ashes: Darren Lehmann's forward planning places Stuart Broad in the firing line for next series

The Aussie Angle

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Stuart Broad is about to endure a tour to Australia that has not been experienced by any Englishman since Douglas Jardine infuriated the locals eight decades ago.

Like Jardine, who was famously told not to wave away the billowing flies at the Sydney Cricket Ground in 1932-33 "because they're the only friends you've got", Broad will discover that being Public Enemy No 1 in Australia is a draining experience. He will have the sound of buzzing in his ears but, unlike Jardine's flies, it won't be from friends.

Broad is unapologetic for refusing to walk in the first Test at Trent Bridge yet, unlike the other dozen or more batsmen on both sides who have edged and stood this series without any great reaction, his compulsion to broadcast his rationale has become counter-productive.

Broad will be one of England's prime movers when they attempt to defend the Ashes in Australia in little more than three months' time. As he showed in his match-winning display at Chester-le-Street, and in a less productive though no less intimidating burst at The Kia Oval when he felled Shane Watson and made Michael Clarke impersonate a target in a fairground shooting gallery, Broad is capable of turning Test matches in one spell.

Yet he appears to be somewhat sensitive about his decision to nick off but not nick off at Trent Bridge. Broad has defended himself repeatedly and, like a schoolgirl unhappy at having her pigtails yanked by her classmates, even used the term "picked on" to describe his fate in the aftermath of the furore.

That suggests there may have been something quite calculated about Australia coach Darren Lehmann's remarkable comments on Sydney radio earlier in the day. Calling Broad a cheat and urging Australian crowds to make his life a misery this winter will most likely attract disciplinary action from the International Cricket Council.

"Our players haven't forgotten [Trent Bridge], they're calling him everything under the sun as they go past," Lehmann said. "I hope the Australian public are the same because that was just blatant cheating.

"I don't advocate walking but when you hit it to first slip it's pretty hard," he added.

Notwithstanding the blatant contradiction of Lehmann refusing to endorse walking then criticising a player for failing to walk, perhaps indicating that the coach had had a long day, it is clearly untenable for a player or official to denigrate an opponent in such fashion.

It would come as little surprise if Lehmann was forced to sit out the two Twenty20 matches at Southampton and Durham that follow the Ashes. What a punishment. Maybe part one of Lehmann's cunning plan is already afoot.

The other part may be that the Australia coach is planning months ahead and he can see a significant benefit in whipping home crowds to a level of hostility rarely seen apart from Bodyline and the emergence of firebrand Dennis Lillee and the ugly Australians of the early 1970s.

Broad is more important to England than David Warner is to Australia yet the bad boy opener revealed how his game was put off by the baying crowd at Old Trafford when he made his belated return to Test ranks.

That impact will be multiplied in Australia, where the crowds will be double or triple in size and the message will be delivered with overt hostility and barely a note of humour.

Lehmann has always been a good reader of the nuances of the game, though perhaps his judgement was overtaken by emotion that dark day in the Gabba dressing rooms when he let loose with a tasteless comment about his Sri Lankan opponents that got him in even greater strife than his Broad diatribe will do.

For a team to be successful, its captain – and possibly coach as well – needs to be a play or two ahead of the game to ensure there are no surprises around the corner and that all eventualities are considered.

Lehmann may have simply read the Broad playbook and decided to get three months ahead of the game.

It remains to be seen what impact the ploy has when Broad is attempting to win another Ashes campaign Down Under but there is no doubt that, like Jardine all those years ago, he will be left with an exceptionally clear understanding of what Australia thinks of him.