Stuart Broad could prove key for England in testing conditions


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The Independent Online

Stuart Broad will inevitably play a pivotal role as England seek to regroup under a new captain, reacquaint themselves with their most talented batsman and restate their Test match credentials in exacting conditions.

For much of the two-month summer stand-off between Kevin Pietersen and his England and Wales Cricket Board employers, Broad was portrayed as one of the senior players with whom the prodigal batsman must make his peace in order to be "reintegrated".

If that version of events was accurate, it was one which rarely chimed with Broad's public utterances - before or after his statement, via ECB, that he had no direct connection with the spoof Twitter account which sent up Pietersen and reportedly aggravated an already sensitive situation.

Either way, Broad - like Pietersen - has a core business to address in India over the next two months.

Under Alastair Cook, about to cut his teeth as a permanent Test captain on one of the most arduous tours, Broad and Pietersen are two key constituents in a collective cause.

They will have significant influences on whether England enjoy their Indian mission, on and off the field.

Pietersen is a sub-Continental traveller of note and experience, thanks to the Indian Premier League; Broad, slightly less so, will arrive determined to embrace an environment which has rarely brought out the best in his compatriots on recent tours - and to continue the mid-career consolidation of his talents, with bat as well as ball.

"You're never satisfied," said the 26-year-old.

"I'm lucky to be in the position I'm in, but I'm not satisfied with where I am. You've always got to push for further."

England will need the same intent after a patchy 12 months in which they lost their world number one status against South Africa.

"The past year has personally been quite a successful one," said Broad.

"In the UAE (3-0 defeat against Pakistan last winter) I picked up a decent amount of wickets, and it was an honour to be named in the ICC Test team of the year.

"But as a team, we didn't have that successful a year.

"I didn't contribute with the bat as much as I could have done, so that's a real focus for me. I want to put both parts of my game together.

"I seem to have gone through my career having runs with the bat or ball, but not together. My next short-term goal is to squeeze both those attributes together."

To that end, Broad will be using his time wisely - and drinking in some culture too.

"Being an all-rounder, you spend a bit more time in the nets. But playing so much, you must balance your time well - because you've got five days' slog coming up.

"Maybe I need to be more efficient with the time I train for my bowling.

"As a team, we must embrace the country.

"The last Test I went on there (in 2008) was when those terrible Mumbai attacks happened.

"We were on real lockdown with armed guards outside our rooms, so we didn't really get to see any of India.

"This time we must use our time well, train and play well, but also get away from cricket, see parts of India and experience parts of the culture.

"When you have that attitude to touring a country, it helps you embrace the tour.

"In Australia (in the 2010/11 Ashes victory) we got out, met people and saw the country. That helps you settle into the country.

"That's something we could do early on to help us, because we have quite a lot of time there before the Tests.

"Having the three warm-up games there also allows us to adjust to the conditions. So there will be no excuses not to be ready when the first Test comes."

However they prepare, England will not be under-estimating opponents they trounced 4-0 at home on their way to the top of the world but whom they have not beaten in India for 28 years.

"We know what a dangerous team they are in India - they haven't lost a Test series there for ages," added Broad.

"We know the challenge will be a big one and we'll have to score big in the first innings, because the wicket will get harder to bat on.

"The conditions are very different to what we play in. The wickets are slow and lower and do turn a bit more.

"If you ask an Indian player touring England, they'll say it swings and nibbles around - whereas in India it doesn't.

"We're not particularly used to those conditions, but we've got a touring squad with lots of experience who have been there before.

"It's an exciting place to tour, and we know how passionate India is about its cricket team. It's important we embrace the challenge and enjoy the tour."

Broad and England will travel with confidence, not just mere hope.

"We are capable of winning in India," he added. "The UAE tour gave us quite a lot of excitement, knowing that for the first time in quite a long time there's a real belief that we can take 20 wickets on the sub-Continent.

"We did it consistently in Dubai on slow, low wickets. If we score the runs then I believe we will do well in India.

"That's the responsibility of the whole team."