HOW DID YOU LEAVE THIS GUY OUT?!
Updated: Jul 23, 2020
When an Australian cricket fan thinks of a current opposition villain, there is one name that instinctively comes to mind – Stuart Broad. When he is bowling you find yourself daydreaming that like Jason Gillespie in 1999, he will attempt an outfield catch and a steaming Steve Waugh will cut him in half and break his tibia. From his patronizing wicket celebrations or his generally smug aurora, he makes your blood boil. That being said, he is an anomaly because at the same time he still truly warrants your respect. Not seeing him play in the first Test against the West Indies, being unceremoniously “not selected” was not befitting for someone who will go down as a great in the history books.
Stuart Broad, son of former English opening batsmen Chris Broad, has had a distinguished career and sits at No.2 on the English all-time wicket takers list, only bested by his long-term opening bowling partner, James Anderson. Before the first test 2 weeks ago, Broad had played in 138 Tests and amassed over 485 wickets at a more than respectful average of 28.50. Broad has been a regular fixture of the English Test bowling line-up since his 2007 debut and had not missed a home Test since 2012. So why leave him out?
England currently have a good problem; they have an over-supply of quality fast bowlers. The first Test line-up consisted of their greatest ever -James Anderson, cricket’s greatest emerging talent-Jofra Archer and firebrand - Mark Wood (who is making somewhat of a renaissance). This meant there just wasn’t enough room for quality acts such as Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and of course Stuart Broad.
James “Jimmy” Anderson doesn’t need much of an introduction, at 37 years old he is still swinging it more than Austin Powers in his prime. With a duke cricket ball in hand he has tormented visiting teams and claimed over 587 wickets in his amazing 17 year 152 Test cricket career.
Jofra Archer, the Barbados-born Englishman looks like one of the hardest current bowlers to face. His nonchalant run-up/action will leave bowlers unsure if they will receive a nasty “Steve Smith” style head knock or receive a standard medium-pace delivery. In his 7 Tests leading up to this series, he had already claimed five 5-wicket hauls at 27.40. He is the future and he must be selected!
Then there is Mark Wood. During the first Test, he delivered one of the fastest deliveries by an Englishman in Test cricket history and his stocks have been on the rise, while both his Test and First-Class averages have dropped significantly after some recent technical changes. However, his selection over Broad, really raised some questions.
After Broad’s snubbing, the English media (like me) then started to speculate. Was it his form? Was it a rotation policy, with the upcoming gruelling Test schedule? Like me had he found a meal between breakfast and brunch during COVID?
The first test resulted in well-publicised shock English loss to an inexperienced West Indian team. Jimmy Anderson and Ben Stokes claimed most of the wickets for England, leaving Wood and Archer picking up a handful. While Anderson toiled, always looking dangerous, it just felt weird that his smug mate Broad wasn’t down the other end. These two have truly been one of the great bowling combinations. Without a truly exceptionally good reason, no other nations would fathom playing Warne without McGrath, Akram without Younis or Walsh without Ambrose. But for England’s famous duo, they decided not to and it didn’t work.
After shunning himself from the spotlight for the first few days after he was dropped, he was then asked how this has made him feel, he said “frustrated” and “angry”. With a point to prove, this may not have been a bad thing for England. He was then selected in the second Test, which featured a whole new bowling line up. As England prepared to play 6 Tests in 7-8 weeks, both Anderson and Wood were rested, and Archer was set to link up with Broad and Woakes. Archer then went on a “field trip”, breaking the teams COVID protocols. This mean Stuart Broad was the main strike bowler and with a point to prove, he didn’t disappoint. His dismissals were classic Stuart Broad, great lines, great lengths and mostly a myriad of LBW’s and bowled all with his trademark smug/animated celebrations. He claimed the most wickets (6) at less 20 runs apiece.
England now have a selection headache. In regards to Woakes and Curran, both can bat with First Class batting averages of 33 and 28 respectively. From time to time and on tough surfaces, being able have quality batsmen as low as no.8 may come into consideration for the English selectors. Broad, once considered an all-rounder boasting a Test century against Pakistan in 2011 and at the time an average of 28, is now coming in at no.11 with a depleted average of 18.
He also holds a record no one wants, the most Test ducks for England – 35. This being said, surely his wicket taking ability and strike rate of 57.6 means more to a team than a handful of lower order runs? Then there is Mark Wood. He is England’s most improved man, but England need a wicket taker and a match winner. Wood is fast, but not as consistent.
Now at 34 and only 9 wickets away from the exclusive 500-wickets club, Broad is still firmly in his prime and has just comprehensively proved that. Arguments may be made to looking to the future, but Broad is still performing and can provide needed leadership for the likes of Archer and the new crop. Age will finally catch up to Jimmy Anderson and they will need to turn to someone to be that leader. Not selecting him was the wrong move and could have alienated a key player. Surely the third-must win Test will see a line-up of Anderson, Archer and Broad!