Wednesday, 23 July 2008

How do you solve a problem like… Stuart Broad?

This wasn’t meant to be a series of articles, but the similarities with the previous subject and the problems facing England are just too great to ignore.

Stuart Broad, son of former England opener Chris, has been on the England radar for a number of years now, despite his still only being 23. Formerly a promising batsman, he took up bowling late finding immediate success for England U19s and Leicestershire. He ended up on an England A tour at the age of 19 and has been involved in the England set up since, firstly in the One Day team before making his debut in Sri Lanka in the winter.

Broad has generally impressed with his attitude to international cricket. Unlike other young tyros Saj Mahmood and Liam Plunkett, he hasn’t been fazed by the step up in class and even though Yuvraj hit him for 36 off an over in the 2020 world cup, he has learnt from the experience and is and should remain a vital cog in the England One Day team.

His presence in the team is enhanced by his batting. He averages 21 in One Day internationals and has dug England out of a hole on a number of occasions. His unbeaten 45 against India at Manchester was made off 73 balls and won England the game. This proved that he had the mental composure of a genuine batsman rather than a late order hitter.

More recently his prowess with the bat has been shown in the test team. He has hit fifties in the last three test matches and averages above 40 in test match cricket (more than his father). To put that into context with the archetypal number 8 batsman in England’s recent history, Ashley Giles managed 4 fifties during his 54 match career. He clearly has a talent for batting and adds strength to the England batting line up.

So we have a young fast bowler, who is composed at International level and who’s batting looks like it could move him into the realms of being a genuine all-rounder. So where is the problem? Sadly, and hence the comparison with Matt Prior, it is with his strongest suit – his bowling. Just as Matt Prior’s wicket-keeping isn’t up to test standard, neither is Stuart Broad’s bowling.

While he certainly continues to show promise, that is all it is at the moment. A test match average of nearly 50 with 19 wickets in his eleven test matches is not the return that is needed from a front line bowler (for example in his 18 test matches, Simon Jones has taken 59 wickets at 28, while Ryan Sidebottom has 73 wickets in 17 matches). In an England team that needs to bowl a strong South African team out twice, England need to be picking their top performing bowlers, regardless of the other strings to their bows. And while Broad hasn’t been helped by the muddled thinking of the England selectors in choosing his colleagues, his bowling does not justify his positioning the team.

Broad’s batting should only come into the selector’s consideration if he is deemed to be an equal bowler to other alternatives, or he is deemed a good enough batsman to bat in the top 6. Currently there are bowlers available to England who are more likely to take wickets. Broad himself is still learning what type of bowler he is and should be allowed to do this outside of the test match arena.

As tempting as it may be, it is time to ignore the obvious all round talent of Stuart Broad, to allow it to develop at county level so that he can come back as a top class allrounder. Otherwise he may become another talent which was crushed before it was allowed to fulfil itself.


Rob said...

Its a difficult one. His batting average is the same as Strauss, Cook, Bell and Vaughan -- should they be dropped too -- because they don't contribute with the ball like Broad does. I suspect Board may get dropped because England need a bowler that can take wickets.

jakob1978 said...

Just to draw comparison on the wicket taking, as you say Broad has taken 19 wickets in 11 tests with an avg of nearly 50

Liam Plunkett, in his 9 tests took 24 wickets at an average of 39.82.

Saj Mahmood, in 8 tests took 20 wickets at an average of 38.10.

both were dropped because they weren't seen as experienced or good enough.

jakob1978 said...

whoops, jsut to correct, according to cricinfo, Stuart Broad has taken 19 wickets in 8 tests, but still, the comparison stands

Tim said...

It's a very difficult one, but I'd be inclined to agree with you. His bowling is not (yet) Test standard - even if he helps to compensate for batting doubts over Flintoff.

Richard Lake said...

Firstly - Jakob you're right it's eight tests, I got mixed up with the 11 innings batting.

As for the comparison with Mahmood and Plunkett, Broad has always looked more in control of his bowling, so while he's not take wickets, Vaughan has always had the confidence to throw him the ball (unlike the other two at times)

In the end I see him as the natural successor to Flintoff, batting 6 as part of a four man pace attack. However, at the moment his bowling is not up to it.

Tim said...

This piece is actually pretty similar to the one I wrote on Dimi and the ODI side. It could be quite a nice little series!

jakob1978 said...

Well, in terms of control (and I realise that stats don't tell the full story) -

Broad has an economy of 3.22
Plunkett 3.57
Mahmood 4.04

so he's more economical, but not by a huge amount.

I'd agree, he's a good prospect for an allrounder, but I think he needs to go back to county cricket and 'learn his trade' as commentators often put it

Scott Wozniak said...

Interesting article Richard, but I'm not sure I agree with your conclusion, as I don't personally beleive Broad will benefit from being sent back to County Cricket. Test Cricket is where he needs to learn his trade if he's going to fulfill his longer term destiny to be Flintoffs replacement.

You might want to take a look at these stats -

8 matches, 114.5 overs, 26 mdns, 6w @ 56.16
8 matches 291 overs, 54 mdns, 19w @ 49.36

Yes, the first person is Andrew Flintoffs first 8 matches in Test Match cricket and as you can see, Broad is not only taking on a bigger workload, he's bowled double the number of overs, taken three times the number of wickets at a marginally better average and scored more runs at a better average.

If they perservered with Flintoff, why shouldn't they perservere with Broad? Are we trying to build a team for the future or simply building a team to win in the short term? It's this kind of short-termist attitude that have got us into this situation in the first place, although I fully accept injuries have taken their toll.

There's always two-sides to every coin.

Richard Lake said...

Interesting stats Scott - thanks

To my mind, though, it does underline my thinking. Broad hasn't bowled badly. I don't get that same trepidation when he is thrown the ball that I did when Mahmood or Plunkett were playing. He is also clearly a quick learner.

Broad is certainly a part of the future. I just think he may develop more quickly outside of the public glare of the test arena where results are expected immediately.

Philip Oliver said...

Great piece Richard - I think you have nailed this subject, although it is interesting to see how Flintoff's bowling improved with a run in the side (injuries permitting). Does Broad have similar potential and is the Test arena the best place to nurture his talent?
It is tough to carry a bowler, especially against an in-form batting line-up, but the strides he has made with his batting at Test level - his development during11 Test innings has been much more than during his 43 other first class knocks - suggest he might improve similarly with the ball.