Stephen Fay: Broad must avoid blight of burnout

A classical young paceman needs careful nurturing
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The Independent Online

But he is so young. With his long-peaked cap on Stuart Broad, looks his age, which is only 20 and a bit. Without the cap, his tousled blond hair makes him seem about 16. "You should see him when he's had a haircut," says Tim Boon, his coach at Leicestershire, "then he looks about 12." So what? Prodigious is the adjective insiders use for Broad's promise as a fast bowler.

He may have played only 25 first-class matches over a couple of years, but he has taken 44 wickets for Leicestershire this season, and yesterday he played his second one-day international for England. The only serious question about his selection was not whether he is good enough, but whether he is too young.

He came on to bowl from the Pavilion End in the seventh over. He stands erect with his feet together at the end of his run-up. His long, thin legs look coltish as he comes in off 12 paces. The left arm is straight, the ball delivered from the top of the arc - which is high because he is 6ft 5in, and still growing. At the crease he is side on. It is a classical action that encourages his coaches.

In that first over, he made the error of bowling short to Younis Khan, who square-cut Broad for four, and when the delivery was short again two balls later, Khan hooked the ball to the mid- wicket boundary.

The answer was to pitch it up and when Broad did so, Pakistan's two best batsmen, Khan and Yousuf, treated him with more respect. His first three overs cost 14 runs. He would be back.

Broad was born with the cricketing equivalent of a silver spoon in his mouth. His father, Chris Broad, opened for England. He was in fact the last England batsmen to score three centuries in successive Tests until Ian Bell followed him this summer. Now he is an ICC match referee, and his son appears to have inherited one of his most productive genes. "Stuart has his father's great competitive streak," says Boon.

Being his father's son, he also has experience of the ways of professional cricketers in the dressing room, and this makes him appear mature beyond his years.

Peter Moores, who had Broad at the Academy in Loughborough last winter before he was spirited away to join the A Team in the West Indies, said: "The impressive thing is him. He takes things on board, assesses their relevance, and when he finds something that works, he gets really stuck in." But, Moores adds, he is not yet the finished article.

The recent story of England's young fast bowling talent has been sad. Jimmy Anderson is recovering slowly from a stress fracture of his back. Liam Plunkett is out of action because of a side strain.

These injuries have given Broad an opportunity earlier than he might have expected, but their stories are also instructive. There is a danger in asking young men to do too much too soon.

Boon's orders are that Broad must not bowl spells of more than seven overs when competiting in County Championship games.

"His body is still fragile. He's tall and gangly, and there are some strength issues." Boon, who was the England team analyst, monitors Broad's work in the nets and the gym, always concerned that he will do too much rather than too little. He regularly consults England's bowling coach, Kevin Shine, who works on details of the action; the problem he detects is the left arm falling away, especially when Broad is tired.

They are working on it.

His coaches are his mentors, and they give the impression of sublime confidence in Broad's future. Delivering the ball from such a height gives him steep bounce off a good length. He can swing the ball away from a right-hander, but what he could not do yesterday was to pacify Khan, Yousuf and Inzamam in their prime.

When Broad came back on, this trio treated him with scant respect. Yousuf drove him for four to mid-off to score the winning runs. His bowling lacked penetration on the day and his figures of 6.3 overs for 44 runs reflected this. Put yesterday down on the learning curve. It is still steep.

Broad has some way to go.

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