Watching Sajid Mahmood’s haphazard bowling in Australia has been particularly galling because of the sense that England have better options they were stubbornly ignoring out of misplaced faith in Mahmood’s enigmatic qualities. Chief amongst these was Stuart Broad, the beanpole who has convinced so many sagacious observers of his qualities.
Broad is only 20; he has played 25 first-class games and taken 80 wickets at 30, yet already he is talked about as some sort of fast-bowling saviour. Reasons for this extend far beyond nostalgic reminiscing of his father’s heroics down under 20 years ago – when Stuart had just been born.
Broad junior boasts an easy, rhythmical action and has the ability to bowl in the high 80s. This, aided by his 6ft7in frame and increasing accuracy makes him a lethal prospect at his best – he has already been compared, albeit rather unfairly, with Glenn McGrath.
If the notion of a gigantic quick revitalising England’s fortunes has an air of déjà vu about it, it is because, a month ago, fans were hoping that Hampshire’s Chris Tremlett could transform his undoubted talent onto the international stage. But Tremlett, who at 25 should be nearing his peak, has a worrying tendency to lose his rhythm under pressure.
His body language is disconcerting: Tremlett too often lacks aggression while his lumbering fielding exerts all the wrong vibes. In short, he seems devoid of the necessary mental toughness and single-mindedness to transform his highly encouraging county form into the international game. With figures of 1-152 in the CB Series, Tremlett will have been shifted well done the pecking order; will Shane Warne’s presence at Hampshire help to ensure his qualities are not put to waste?
Broad, in stark contrast, is clearly so enthusiastic about the prospect of playing international cricket. Against Pakistan in September he played five ODIs and, though he appeared a little raw, was never overawed. Broad took five wickets and impressed with his attitude and character – only to be left out of the ICC Champions Trophy squad in favour of Sajid Mahmood.
So many players seem to treat international games with ambivalence. Broad, however, relishes the contest; upon being selected, he spoke of being “fully prepared and excited”. He also fits Duncan Fletcher’s idea of being a multi-dimensional cricketer: he possesses a solid technique and many shots, as he showed in scoring a classy 54* for England A against Pakistan last summer. Already, he has publicly talked of targeting the problematic number eight position in the Test team.
That’s the good news. The bad news is he is, it likely to be overlooked for Mahmood in the first final. This would be another disappointing selectorial decision: Broad has all the makings of an international player – a repeatable action, controlled aggression and enthusiasm – and he is patently a better option than both Mahmood and Tremlett for the Caribbean.