Stuart Broad: "If I get in the team, everything is going to be left on that field"

GEORGE DOBELL AT LORD'S: Neither Broad or Anderson should have anything to prove at this stage. If they never bowled another delivery, they could walk off into the sunset knowing that had enjoyed outstanding careers


To watch Stuart Broad in training over the last couple of days, you would never guess he had played 152 Tests.

While James Anderson, the only specialist seamer in history to have played more Tests, has prepared for the New Zealand series in typical fashion – easing himself into sessions and ensuring he peaks for that first morning – Broad has charged in.

Perhaps, on a level, he feels he has a point to prove. Certainly his spell to his new captain, Ben Stokes, on Monday made a persuasive case for selection. Or perhaps he is simply relishing being back in these surroundings. After a few months out of the side – out of the squad, even – he looks as enthusiastic and committed as at any time in his career.

That probably shouldn't be a surprise. You can't play that amount of Test cricket without extreme passion for your sport. To do so as a bowler, ignoring the missing toe nails, the horrible blisters, the inevitable pains and strains that are part of the life of a seamer, is incredible.

Neither Broad or Anderson should have anything to prove at this stage. If they never bowled another delivery, they could walk off into the sunset knowing that had enjoyed outstanding careers. They don't need the money – neither of them will struggle for opportunities beyond the playing field – and they don't need the accolades. They've been key parts of sides which have achieved everything they could have reasonably hoped to achieve and a great deal more besides. But here they are, as hungry as ever, and prepared to be judged once more at an age where previous generations had long since taken a role in the commentary boxes.

"I was enthusiastic [at training] and I think that's something I'm going to carry into each day," he said from Lord's on Tuesday. "Because there's no doubt when the team was in the West Indies I missed it. I wished I was there. It just makes you realise that, yes, these careers don't go on forever. You've got to get as much out of it as you possibly can and enjoy it.

"So yes, I loved it. I loved charging in. It was great to see the coaches again who I'd not seen for a long time and it was just a really good, vibrant feel around the changing-room as it should be before the first Test of the summer. We should all be flying and have amazing energy. I think every sports person has to prove their worth all the time."


Stuart Broad and James Anderson could be back in tandem at Lord's (GarethCopley/Getty Images)

You suspect Brendon McCullum's ethos is music to his ears. "Brendon said one basic thing to explain what his mindset is: you chase every ball as hard as you can until it's at the boundary," Broad explained. "That is just a mindset of positivity all the time. You are going to give everything to this game and then we'll reflect on whatever happens.

"I'm taking my mindset back to the stage where I had played zero Test cricket and have zero experience. You don't look too far ahead when you make your Test debut; you're just excited to play the next game. I just want to feel fresh and attack the strategy at Lord's, leave my heart and soul on this field and move on."

Broad dismisses the suggestion he might have considered retirement following the decision to omit him from the squad that went to the Caribbean. And he stresses that a key difference in the current regime to the previous one, is a commitment to focus on the here and now rather than planning for the future.

"No, I never felt that was it for me at Test level," he says. "I feel, particularly when I look back to Sydney and Hobart, I bowled nicely. I felt I still have a lot to offer to the team. As a professional sportsperson, if you don’t believe you're one of the best bowlers in the country then you're stuffed.

"So in my mind, I believed I was in the best bowling group, particularly in England. Missing out in the West Indies was disappointing but my mindset was right: I'm thought I’m going to take March off, get really fresh and buzzing to play and come back with Notts, build up slowly but ready to strike at the right time.

"I've done a lot of work with Chris Marshall, the Notts psychologist, on my mindset. Rather than thinking, 'I hope I'm fit for the second Test against South Africa', I'm being grateful for what I've got this week and give my heart and soul for it.

"Then, if I'm a bit stiff and sore next week, we'll approach that then and if I don't play, great. If I get in the team, everything is going to be left on that field. I said to Jimmy today, whether we get none for 100 or 5 for 30 actually doesn't matter right now. It's just about us giving everything to the England shirt. The results look after themselves in the long run anyway."


Broad is looking forward to playing under Ben Stokes' captaincy (Stu Forster/Getty Images)

It increasingly looks as if Broad will play in this match. While a final decision has not been made, it seems Craig Overton will be the bowler to miss out with Jack Leach or Matt Potts batting at No.8. The length of tail isn't ideal but, without the likes of Jofra Archer or Mark Wood, this might well be England's strongest seam attack available. Still, you can see why the team management will be anxiously awaiting updates on the availability of allrounders such as Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran.

So, had that sense of enjoyment every faltered? He pauses for a moment and reflects that life in those Covid bubbles really was beginning to lose its charm.

"When Covid was in the camp around a Boxing Day Test I wasn't playing in, it wasn't that enjoyable," he says. "But I think all of us who were out there could vouch for that. It wasn't a very enjoyable experience. With Marshy at Notts I've worked very hard on this forward focussed mindset, almost a line in the sand, leaving everything behind. Coming into each Test match like I've never played before, but with the luxury of playing 150 odd Test matches experience to calm me down."

It says much for Broad's enthusiasm that he is still committed to learning. A few years ago, he added the wobble-seam to his armoury. Then, having accepted that just a tough of pace had deserted him, he resolved to bowl straighter and fuller and prevent batters leaving as many deliveries. Both changes brought him renewed success and more time at the top level.

Now he is evolving again. Armed with more data from the analysis at Notts and England, he is aiming to maximise his effectiveness by bowling at specific moments when he is likely to prove most valuable.

"When I was 20 and coming into international cricket, my mindset was that I had to keep improving all the time," he says. "New slower balls, or seeing what I do differently to the past.

"Two years ago I came up with the idea that the lower I could get my leave percentage [the amount batters are able to leave deliveries bowled by him], the better my spells would be. I will continue to do that, but this summer I will be even more specific.


Brendon McCullum is in charge of England for the first time (Adrian Dennis/AFP via Getty Images)

"Because I've played so much cricket in the UK when I arrive at Lord's, I go through the data of ends I've bowled, when I've bowled spells, whether I've bowled to left or right handers, the age of ball and when my strike rate is lowest. So, I'll be saying to the captain 'my record from the Pavilion End to left handers between 10 and 20 overs is very good; maybe I should have a crack then?'

"It happened at Headingley five years ago [2016]. I hated bowling up the hill and Jimmy hated running down the hill. But for 10 years that’s what we'd done. So we swapped it and Jimmy got a 10-fer. The data says these are the times, ends, combos you should bowl so we should use it to our advantage. They use all this date in Formula One and the NFL and in our white-ball teams under Morgs. Maybe we get better as a team bringing it all together."

Less than a month before his 36th birthday and Broad is still focused on getting better. That passion, that enthusiasm, could win England a few more Tests yet.

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