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YOU'RE NOT AS GOOD AS YER DAD...

Pitch's Sportsman of 2023 is Stuart Broad. Andy Afford set about pumping the family for what it is that makes their kith and kin an any-era any-nation cricketing great.

Photoshoot: Sam Bowles

There can’t be many families across the world where, as a dad, you’ve been named an international sportsperson of the year, you’ve achieved one of team sports statistically more difficult challenges, you’ve attained individual accolades, globally-recognised personal landmarks, and you’re six-foot four stood in your socks. And all that the above does is place you as the second-best (and second-tallest) sportsman in your household.

I’m obviously speaking with Chris Broad. Dad of. It was he named international cricketer of the year 1985. Ashes winner ‘85/86 down under. Century maker against Australia – three in a row, as it happens, during that winter (Plus one more in the Centenary Test of 1988, for good measure). And he’s a veritable giant of a man, by stature, and of the game generally.  Latterly as a much-respected – and arguably even more storied – international match referee.

We’re sat in a city centre cafe Nottingham in mid October. The weather is set fair. And despite the listing of what amounts to his myriad shortcomings, conversation somehow remains upbeat. “Putting it like that,” muses our ‘runner-up’, “It could make you feel a bit of a failure, couldn’t it?

“In truth – at the very beginning – I didn’t see him even becoming a county cricketer, let alone an international. It was as late as seeing him bowl for Leicestershire against Nottinghamshire on T20 finals day in 2006 – bowling at New Zealand captain Stephen Fleming – that I could see his ability. And it wasn’t until maybe two years into his career that I thought he might have any longevity.”

As Stuart Broad ran in to bowl his last ball in any kind of meaningful cricket, at the Oval during England’s series-levelling-but-Ashes-losing final Test of the summer. Few, until that Sunday afternoon, even considered it would be even remotely his last. Of anything. “He’d spoken to us about it before the Ashes started; that it was in his thoughts,” offers Broad Snr. “I think things had come together off the field for him – he’d fairly-recently had a baby (with BBC Radio1 presenter and former popstar Mollie King) – and he’d always wanted to go out on his own terms. It was the send off he wanted.

“He wanted to go into the media. I don’t think he’d made much of a secret of that. And getting in – as any career dictates – is all about timing. I guess that’s the same on the field. There has to be a spot available for you. In short, he felt it was his time.

“But in terms of it happening when it did, he phoned on the morning of that last day, that he was going to announce it, but like I said, he’d been talking about the possibility since before the Australia series started.”

 

 

The recently retired Stuart Broad poses durig a photoshoot at STENCIL Studios in Nottingham, 2019. 

 

Watching the 37-year-old Broad tearing in against Australia’s tailenders on the last day of England’s Test summer, the Aussies by this stage were within striking distance of what looked an improbable final-day victory target of 383. But given that the whole summer of cricket was ‘unlikely’, this unlikely victory chase felt closer to 50:50 than would be the norm.

This deep into the game, this late in the series, it was the sheer force of personality – combined with a sense of writing his own history – that saw the final two wickets fall to Broad’s bowling. And that’s after hitting his final ball with the bat for 6 earlier in the morning.

With dealing to lefthanders proving the late-life stock-in-trade, nicking off Todd Murphy and then wicketkeeper-batter Alex Carey seems an obvious conclusion to proceedings now. But with Broad wicket-less in the innings at this stage – even after 15 tidy but unrewarded overs – ‘inevitable success’ wasn’t writ as large as the bowler.

Ultimately, the wickets did come. During what feels now more like a stage-managed final spell than it was. All undertaken with the old ball.

It was a game where both sides had scored well, played out on a typically decent Oval deck. And anything could still happen. “The ECB had given Stuart a box for our whole family and some friends,” speaks Broad Snr again. “Every time he bowled felt nervy. The crowd were with him – as they always have been. And he was doing his darnedest to deliver for them. And I’m not someone to usually reach for the camera, but I actually filmed his last wicket as it happened live on my phone. Bizarrely, as it isn’t something I do.”

Save for the eventual press assignments on day five – accompanied by the obligatory Sky Sports ‘sexy montage’ tear-jerker – it was to be his final act. In the end he took 22 wickets at 28.4 apiece in the series. Ending, as he had always proven; an absolute Aussie killer.

But on those early days. Days his dad didn’t even necessarily ‘see it’. It may all feel inevitable, as an outcome now. But it never was. As, I repeat, his dad just attested.

From gangly colt. to being talked up as a future England no.6, but with reservations held about the limited nature of his bowling. Misgivings especially loud when in the role as team enforcer, particularly. For Broad to have perfected as many ‘styles of bowling’ as he has is almost stupefying.

Firstly, in breaking through as a tall-and-bouncy seamer in the one-day and Test side. Then as the team hardman, as a bang-it-in and cause some chaos agitator. Then on to cutters and spinners on the subcontinent and in the Caribbean. To every version of swing and reverse-swing – the most overt adaptation of which being evident during his final series against Australia this summer. Re-finding a big-and-curvy away-swinger to the righthander; dormant for ten years.

He perfected around the wicket to the lefthander. Then over-and-round to everyone. Team firestarter. Aspersion caster. Crowd baiter. Able to sate a crowd when stood in the deep – particularly when playing along to the antipodeans, as the Aussie’s cartoon ‘villain’. And there’s more. He became the sustainer of the seemingly ‘day-long’ spells. Master of the five-wicket burst. Has hunted alone. Bowled as part of a world-famous pair. A popper-up-and-taker of vital wickets. As bowling goes, generally, few have covered as much of its canvas as Broad. Fewer still have mastered as much as a tenth of his frames of reference, modes of operation, and realm of undeniable excellence.

 

 

Suited and Booted. Ball in Hand. England and Nottingham's golden boy flies the flag for the Three Lions. 

 

And with the bat – what about that? At least you knew what you were going to get. Especially in most recent times. By-and-large, it’s fair to say that if he lasted ten balls there would be at least one 6. And if he lasted 20, he’d score at better than a run a ball. Against convention, but playing to his own type, he’d mainly hole out in the deep. Or be found slightly inside the line of the ball to be caught from an angled bat in the slips. Or as an option, to sweep and miss the spinner and be given out LBW.  Then to be given out a second time when he inevitably loses one of his team’s available reviews.

As a batter it would be fair to say that he ‘had a swing’. He chanced his arm. He played a few shots.  But he also took his fair share of knocks along the way. He might ‘hang on the back-foot’ a bit more than some, but he never backed down, even when not exactly right in the line of fire. Even when clearly shitting himself.

That ‘bump on the nose’ sustained against Pakistan at the Oval in 2009 proving the decisive moment in a career that saw him firstly likened to legendary allrounder, Garry Sobers, and ended with him more resembling the no.9 or 10 he became.

As a cricketer he became a pathological optimist. A serial winner. A painter of the best case. A backer of his team when no-one else did.

A by-any-measure good talker. Never a ‘walker’. The sayer of the right thing. The payer of many a fine – £2000 of which at the hand of dad, Chris. And a public schoolboy yet somehow man of the people. But all of this aside, what is it that gives Stuart Broad his edge? All things considered, I think it comes down to one thing. Competitiveness.

On that, and viewed objectively, Broad should have entered what might be characterised as his ‘Vegas Elvis’ phase. He’d done it all. Won everything from Ashes to World Cups. Added his name to illustrious company by stats. And been an England ever-present for a decade. A family man. A golfer. With nothing left to prove on the field, just a case of jogging a few half-pace victory laps, enjoy the applause, stack on the weight, sing the hits, consider it a pension plan. But that wasn’t the case, was it.

Not to the watching world, certainly. Ever since England dropped him from the Test team for the tour to West Indies last winter, and have essentially looked to ‘phase him out’, he has failed to go gentle into that good night. He’s been vocal about being out of teams. He’s done his time on the sidelines, even carried the drinks in a bright yellow bib. Then he’s gone about making himself undroppable ever since. Proving a point. By every turn. 

So, again, why is Stuart Broad Pitch’s sportsman of the year? What elevates his 12-month contribution to our enjoyment above others? In short, it’s his story. As a competitor. Hit for six 6s in an over didn’t define him. Characterised as a ‘shit bloke’ was water off a platypus’ back. A veteran, by this summer, and down on pace. In a headband. Overtly patriotic. Posh voice. Posh school. Almost definitively a faded great. Almost. But still so competitive.

Ultimately he’s our poshy with a plum in his mouth, isn’t he? Our clearly patriotic sportsman. And he tries like a bastard. He clearly loves it – that’s why he’s been so wilful in remaining playing. He wants desperately to win, so we can all win with him. And he has a real sense of what representing England means to the public. It should all be a bit beyond the pale, but it isn’t. because it’s authentic. And we all wish we had his balls. England should fucking pickle ‘em for posterity.

And on that final unanswered question re familial bragging rights. “You look at most sons following in the footsteps of cricketing fathers,” Broad Snr again. “With the exception of the name Cowdrey, perhaps, most of them actually turn out to be better than their dads.” Amen. Our sportman of the year, Stuart Christopher John Broad.

 

 

"This is how you get David Warner out." Stuart Broad shows us how to make the ball talk.

 

PROFILE

Name: Stuart Christopher John Broad

Born: Nottingham, England

DoB: 24 June, 1986 

Age: 37 

Role: Opening bowler, lefthand batter 

Teams: Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire & England 

Ashes Tests played: 35 

Ashes series wins:

Ashes wickets: 153 

Tests played: 167 

Test wickets: 604 

Test runs: 16,719 

Test Fifties: 13 

Test Hundreds: 1

Highest Test score: 169 v Pakistan at Lord’s, 2010

Best Test bowling: 8-15 v Australia at Trent Bridge, 2015

ODIs played: 121 

ODI wickets: 178 

T20Is played: 56 

T20I wickets: 65

 

HONOURS

Awarded an MBE in 2016.  

September 17, 2015 saw Nottingham NET tram 237 named ‘Stuart Broad’ in his honour. 

NBC Denis Compton Award: 2005, 2006, 2007 

Cricket Writer's Club Young Cricketer of the Year: 2006 

PCA England Most Valuable Player: 2008/09

County caps awarded by Leicestershire (2007) and Nottinghamshire (2008).

 

FACTS

Second on the all-time Test ducks list (39) behind West Indies’ Courtney Walsh (43).

Fifth on the all-time Test appearances list behind Australia’s Steve Waugh (168) and Ricky Ponting (168), England’s James Anderson (183) and India’s Sachin Tendulkar (200).

Fifth on the all-time Test wickets list behind India’s Anil Kumble (619), England’s James Anderson (690), Australia’s Shane Warne (708) and Sri Lanka’s Muttiah Muralidaran (800).

Has taken five wickets in a single spell on seven occasions.

Third on the all-time list of wicket-takers v Australia with 131 victims in 35 Tests. Behind only Sir Ian Botham (148 wickets in 36 Tests) and Courtney Walsh (135 in 38).

Conceded 6 sixes in an over at the hands of India’s Yuvraj Singh during the inaugural T20 World Cup in South Africa, 2007.

His career-best 169 is the highest-ever score made by an England no.9.

That highest score featured in a world record eighth-wicket stand of 332, in partnership with Jonathan Trott (184).

Broad is one of only 10 cricketers with names on both bowling and batting honours boards at Lord’s. Those names include stellar allrounders Sir Ian Botham, Sir Garfield Sobers and Andrew Flintoff.

Two Test hat-tricks. Against India at Trent Bridge, 2011 and v Sri Lanka at Headingley, 2014.

In dismissing Australia’s David Warner on 17 occasions in 31 matches, he places behind only Glenn McGrath’s hold over Michael Atherton (19 dismissals in 17 matches) and Alec Bedser’s vice-like over another Australian, Arthur Morris (18 dismissals in 21 Tests). Curiously, Michael Atherton’s name appears three times in the top four. Sadly, none of which as a bowler.

Nine Man of the Match awards.

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