Stuart Broad is cricketing Marmite. His petty tantrums and unnecessary outbursts divide England supporters: some of us believe his aggression is a healthy thing , while others reckon he should concentrate on taking wickets and winning cricket matches rather than slanging matches with batsmen and umpires. So where do you draw the line between out-and-out abuse, and controlled, positive aggression?
Sledging has been a part of the game ever since the days of WG Grace, but there’s banter and then there’s abuse – two entirely different things. And when players like Stuart Broad use offensive language towards match officials, you know that barrier has been breached.
I suppose it’s refreshing to see cricketers show passion and desire on the cricket field. It adds to the competitive spirit and spreads through the whole team. Everybody wants to win. But I don’t feel comfortable with Broad’s attitude, especially as in the last twelve months when he has so often found himself in trouble with match referees. During last year’s Edgbaston Test he was fined fifty per cent of his match-fee for hurling a ball at Pakistan’s wicket-keeper Zulqarnain Haider. And he received the same punishment last week after abusing umpire Billy Bowden during the second ODI of the current Sri Lanka series at Headingley. As legend has it, Broad reacted to a declined LBW appeal by telling Bowden, “you must be ****ing joking”. Not acceptable, really.
If Broad had been taking more wickets this summer, I doubt he’d have stooped so low. Unfortunately, his poor form and build-up of pressure acted as the trigger, as it so often does to sportsmen in the modern day. Perhaps it’s time for Andy Flower, the person who encouraged Broad to adopt such a bullying style, to take him to one side and cool him down a little. Maybe even educate him. Let him know what’s acceptable and what isn’t. After all, Broad is England’s Twenty20 captain now and has a lot of responsibility on his shoulders – not only leading an international outfit and a bowling attack but also setting an example to youngsters making their way in the game.
Broad is a very talented bowler who has all the potential to become a major influence on English cricket in the next decade. Every bowler, whether on the village green or dominating the IPL, has their moments when the heat of the moment gets the better of them. Allan Donald, Glenn McGrath, Jimmy Anderson; they’ve all been there. But Broad needs to learn the difference between affective sledging and excessive abuse.