Stuart Broad: Bright future dawns for the rising son

Leicestershire's 19-year-old Stuart Broad appears destined to tread in the Test footsteps of father Chris, but as a bowler rather than a batsman
Click to follow
The Independent Online

It is a bright spring morning and an ambitious young cricketer has reached an important milestone. Still two months short of his 20th birthday and in only his 12th first-class match, for Leicestershire against Surrey, he has taken five wickets in an innings for the first time. His victims include four England players.

Not surprisingly, he is keen to share the news with his family. In the dressing-room he dives into his bag for his mobile and within a few moments of thumb-twitching concentration, even his father, who is 6,500 miles away on business, knows all about it.

The message back glows with parental pride. Yet the thoughts it conveys are not simply those of a dad enjoying a child's achievement; they stir a touch of nostalgia, too, and of anticipation that the good fortune that blessed his career might also smile on his son.

There seems every chance of that happening. The father in this story is Chris Broad, the Gloucestershire and Nottinghamshire opening batsman who won 25 Test caps and would have added more to that tally had he not joined a rebel tour to South Africa. His son, Stuart, has still to complete a year on the county circuit yet appears to be fast-tracking himself towards the highest level of the game.

Stuart made his Championship debut on 1 June last year and represented the England Under-19s against Sri Lanka in July and August. The 30 wickets he claimed in 10 first-class matches earned him a place at the England Academy, with whom he was in South Africa when he was called up to play for England A against the West Indies in St Lucia in March.

His form this season has already been solid, earning him a second call-up for England A against Sri Lanka at Worcester. And while it was Jon Lewis, with figures of 6 for 49 and 3 for 41, who took the headlines there, Broad's 3 for 17 in the second innings reinforced the impression he is already making on the national selection hierarchy.

After waiting until he was 26 for his own Test debut, no one would be more delighted than Chris to see Stuart take the next step a good deal sooner. But any assumption that this is a case of a pushy father wanting to relive his own career through his son would be wide of the mark. Stuart will vouch for that.

"He has never been a pushy parent in any way," Stuart said. "As far back as I can remember, from being a lad of five or six playing on the outfield at Trent Bridge and when Dad went back to Gloucestershire, I was always interested. But I'm not the sort of person to be pushed into anything. I can't even say that it was my father who inspired me to play. I know he scored three hundreds for England in Australia when they won the Ashes in 1986-87. I've seen videos of that. But I've never spent time studying his game. To be honest he has not had as much input as it may look. I've never had a net with him. People say, 'Oh, your dad played for England, he must give you so much'. He does give me a lot but in a different way."

Family circumstances have influenced Stuart's life. When Chris separated from Stuart's mother, Carole, it was inevitable she would play a hands-on role, fetching and carrying and encouraging. Living in Rutland, Stuart attended Oakham School and joining Leicestershire, rather than follow his father to Trent Bridge, became a natural progression. But the bond between father and son is clearly strong. "My dad comes to watch me and that means a lot to me," he said. "But he is one of those people who will just sit quietly, watch a bit of cricket and head off. I wouldn't know he was here unless he texted me to say so. But he is always there for me if I need him. I'm comfortable with that."

Such sentiments will play well with Broad Snr, who retired as a player in 1994 but is now heavily occupied as an International Cricket Council match referee. "I would have been surprised if Stuart had not picked up a bat at some point but he did so only when he wanted to," he said. "I've never pushed him towards a career in the game. As a father, I believe in trying to give my children opportunity but it is up to them to take it or not. I look upon him now as any proud father would. I do go to watch him when I can during the summer. If I am at the ground he will usually come out to sit with me so I do get the chance to chat. But I will not go into the dressing-room. For players the dressing-room is sacrosanct and I don't feel it is my place to be in there."

Genetic inheritance clearly counts in cricket. Should Stuart Broad follow his father in winning an England Test cap, he would be the 12th player to do so, the latest being Simon Jones. But two other factors have helped to give him the opportunity. Being at Oakham was one, enabling him to be guided by two former England players in the director of cricket, Frank Hayes, and the coach, David Steele.

The second is that where Chris Broad won fame as a left-handed batsman, Stuart is making his mark as a right-arm bowler, his decision to pursue that discipline prompted by a growth spurt that has seen him soar to 6ft 6in - two inches taller than his father - with the potential to add more.

"I bat left-handed and when I was taken on at the Leicestershire Academy it was as a batter who bowled a bit of swing," he said. "But then at 17 I really grew. I've grown six inches in the last two and a half years. Suddenly I found the ball bouncing through to the 'keeper a bit more."

At around the same time he went to Australia for six months, which turned out to be a career-shaping experience. "I went as a batting all-rounder. But I bowled on really flat pitches and learned to hit good areas and so when I came back last season to bowl here on pitches where it does a bit more I started picking up wickets. On the back of that I quickly got into the second team and then the first team. I still want to develop my batting and be seen as an all-rounder but being recognised for my bowling at this stage probably helps."

He added: "I've never struggled with comparisons because I don't really take it to heart. But I do find it quite nice that I am more of a bowler and don't get the 'just like his dad' comments."

He admits his rapid progress has been "a bit bewildering" but vows to keep his feet on the ground. "Obviously my dream is to play for England but I don't think farther ahead than tomorrow really. I don't set big objectives. If I don't do my job tomorrow I am not going to make those objectives anyway. I believe it is the little things that count."

The attention his son is attracting worries his father a little. "That was always going to be the case," Broad Snr says. "We have this thing in this country called tall poppy syndrome. I'm not going to be naïve enough to think that people will not build him up and then find ways to knock him down.

"But he has good people looking out for him at Leicestershire and having been in and around cricket all his life he has seen the downside. I see myself in him to an extent. At his age I was similarly single-minded, a bit too much so really. Stuart is a really nice lad. But he has a fierce determination to succeed."

Like father like son Three other cricketing families

Colin Cowdrey - later Baron Cowdrey of Tonbridge - played 114 Tests for England, scoring 7,624 runs at an average of 44.06. He also played for Kent, from 1950 until 1976. He died in his sleep in 2000. His eldest son, Chris, played for Kent, Glamorgan and England as an all-rounder, though with less success than his father. Chris' brother, Graham, was also a regular for Kent.

Micky Stewart played for Surrey and managed eight Tests for England, averaging 35 with the bat. He later became England coach, and one of his charges was his son, Alec, who enjoyed a stellar career, appearing in 133 Tests for England, averaging almost 40 with the bat, and claiming 277 dismissals, mainly as an underrated wicketkeeper. Alec now does punditry work for radio and television.

Alan Butcher was a fine batsman for Surrey and Glamorgan but was a one-cap wonder for England. He is currently coach of Surrey, and his son, Mark, is the Surrey captain. Mark has so far played 71 Tests for England but his finest moment in an England shirt came at Headingley in 2001, when he flayed the Australians around the park for a majestic 173 not out to record a memorable England victory. He still harbours hopes of an international comeback