Stuart Broad is like a piece of bread. He started off fresh, filled a hole, failed to ignite much excitement and started to go stale. What do you do with stale bread? You throw it out. But England’s persistent regurgitation of Broad is starting to turn my stomach more than banana sandwiches. It’s about time they went shopping.
Broad was a bowler tipped for big things from a young age. He impressed at Leicestershire, particularly as a one-day bowler where he profited from a line and length that is best suited to English conditions. I remember one outing at Derbyshire in a Twenty20 match where he relentlessly assaulted a good length and off-stump line to claim 3-13. You could see what all the fuss was about. But Broad, still only 26, seems to have forgotten the methods that earned him an England call in the first place, and it is to no one’s benefit.
Of course, bowlers must develop an extra string to their bowling when bursting onto the international scene. Batsmen are too good to be outfoxed by gentle medium pace every ball, but in striving for that extra something, Broad has erred too far in the opposite direction. If he would have his way, the laws of cricket would allow six bouncers per over, not the customary two.
You would think, presented with a pitch as mundane and lifeless as beans on toast, Broad might have wised up a little. After all, Brendon McCullum demonstrated in the one-day leg of the tour that bowling short was a tactic best saved for the indoor nets. But the persistence of England’s second most senior bowler to test the eyesight of Hamish Rutherford and friends landed him in more trouble than it ensued. All of England’s bowlers were guilty of this, sure, but Broad has been doing it for far too long.
It might not be his ability I’m berating here, but intelligence plays a role for a bowler often drastically understated. Not only is Broad a front line bowler for England, he is also our Twenty20 captain. He hasn’t exactly embraced that job with the greatest level of understanding either.
Given some of his past performances in whites, it’s a mystery as to why he’s such an enigma. Cast your mind back and remember what he is capable of: The Oval against Australia, Nottingham against the Indians, Lord’s against West Indies. On all these occasions he’s pitched the ball up and been rewarded with a hatful of wickets. Where is that now?
All the best bowlers know what length to bowl without even bowling a ball. Broad, on the other hand, tends to take a couple of series before he works out what he should be doing.
It is a disappointing turn of events for a man who has come full circle. It was on this tour five years ago that the boy became a man. As England opened their eyes to the necessity of relinquishing Matthew Hoggard and Stephen Harmison after a hiding in Hamilton, it was Broad and James Anderson who were summoned to pick up the pieces. Their selection enabled England to turn the series around and claim a 2-1 victory.
It seems now, however, that Broad is in Hoggard and Harmison’s shoes. With Stuart Meaker, Jade Dernbach, Graham Onions and Chris Woakes all striving for selection, is it time England disposed of a stale Broad?