One of the most talented cricketers that England have produced in recent years has announced that he is ready to return to the Test arena after an elongated absence.
Nottinghamshire bowler Stuart Broad suffered a severe drop in form and confidence during the 2012 season, a decline which lasted into the winter tour of India.
He flew home following the Test at Mumbai, his second consecutive wicketless match, where it was revealed that he was struggling with a heel injury – but today, upon arrival in New Zealand, he declared that he is fit and ready to take to the stage once more.
"At his best he is a world beater, capable of bowling in excess of 90mph and blowing away any batsman in world cricket."
At his best he is a world beater, capable of bowling in excess of 90mph and blowing away any batsman in world cricket. Coupled with his eye for batting he has dared to believe that he could bat in the top 6 – a genuine all-rounder akin to Andrew Flintoff. Yet at his worst – a crippling affliction that seems to have its roots in his self belief and confidence – he bowls much slower, his routine action stalls and he cannot buy a run.
In his bad patches Broad has come to embody the negative side of world cricket – the overplayed young tyro, who breaks down more often than not. A curse which has befallen the Australians in recent times came knocking on England’s and Nottinghamshire’s door, as the cricketer that they most want to protect gave the England selectors no choice but to drop him as he struggled to keep up and contribute in India.
The news that England’s t20 captain is fit and raring to go will be a great boost before the start of the series against the Kiwis, as the pitches in New Zealand typically favour seam bowlers. He will have two warm up matches, on the 4th and the 6th of February to prove his fitness before he is expected to return as captain for the 3 t20 Internationals, starting in Auckland on the 9th.
Broad would have flown to India for the two final ODIs were it not for the bad weather affecting the airports in the UK. The heavy snow that hit the Midlands impacted on Broad’s fitness programme that he was embarking on before rejoining his England team-mates, as he could not go for the runs that he felt he needed to test out his heel. However, England sponsors Adidas have come to his assistance in creating a unique boot for him with extra ankle support.
As the closest thing England have had to a talisman since the retirement of Flintoff, England will want to see Broad in the starting XI with his England colleagues. The facts are that when Broad plays well, England play well – in the 24 victorious Tests that Broad has been a part of, his batting average is 35, whilst his bowling average is a miserly 24. In the 12 Tests matches that England have lost with Broad in the team, he has batted at 21.66 and gone for over 35 per wicket.
For England to succeed in New Zealand, I do not think that Broad will have to be on top of his game – for they should win easily irrespectively. However, this tour is vastly important for the England set up and to Broad, for if he can regain his form and confidence before the summer series against the Kiwis and the Australians, the selectors will in turn show faith and trust in his abilities.
In the 2009 Ashes series, Broad took five of the first seven wickets to fall during the first innings at the Oval as England reduced the Australians from 73/0 to 111/7. He finished with 5/37, as he truly came of age in an England shirt. If he can reproduce similar feats during the 2013 series he will cement his place as one of England’s premier cricketers.
Alex Britten blogs at wordpress.