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.