Stuart Broad is hoping history repeats itself this winter after the negativity towards England’s Ashes squad reminded him of the ‘can’t bat, can’t bowl, can’t field’ vintage that ransacked Australia 35 years ago.
It is a series close to his heart as his father Chris Broad was named man of the series for hitting three hundreds in a 2-1 victory, conceived after Mike Gatting’s team had been completely written off, most notably when the late cricket writer Martin Johnson famously claimed there were only three things wrong with them.
‘I see a resemblance here with the 1986-87 tour. Not naming names but there has been a similar tone, and some feisty chat, about this England team,’ said Broad.
Stuart Broad is hoping history repeats itself this winter after the negativity towards England’s Ashes squad reminded him of the ‘can’t bat’ vintage that ransacked Australia 35 years ago
‘It was typical Ashes hype, to be honest, and having sat on both sides of the media fence I get the game. People don’t tend to write columns saying “it’s a good squad and England have got a chance”. Saying the score will be 5-0, selections are predictable, there is no pace, and some bloke who has not played for five years should be picked gets noticed a bit more. Let’s say it provided a bit of motivation and a wry smile.
‘But there is as much up in the air in the Australian camp as there is in the English camp, potentially, and I’m really excited about our prospects. Both teams have strengths and weaknesses and it is our job as a bowling unit to stare at Australia’s weaknesses.
‘Everyone has to be ready for when they are called upon and that starts with being 100 per cent on the money at Brisbane. We can put this Australia team under pressure on the field and off the field if we do our jobs really well from the start.’
It is a series close to his heart as his father Chris Broad (above) was named man of the series for hitting three hundreds in a 2-1 victory
This came after Mike Gatting’s (above) team had been completely written off, most notably when the late cricket writer Martin Johnson claimed there were three things wrong with them
With Archer and Olly Stone both sidelined with injury, the onus will once again fall upon Broad and James Anderson, with a combined age of 74, to spearhead the attack – just as they have in the previous three trips down under. Although the first of those saw Andrew Strauss’ team return home with the urn, the last two have returned a combined score of Australia 9 England 0.
But Broad continued: ‘What did the 86-87 side do? They had a group of bowlers in which no one was express, but hit their areas very hard and some batsmen scored hundreds. I can’t emphasise enough that for us to win in Australia, our batters are going to have to do that.’
Broad has taken heart from the prominence of Kyle Abbott and Vernon Philander in South Africa’s 2-1 win on Australian soil five years ago and how an Indian bowling unit lacking X factor were victorious at the start of 2021.
‘Pick four bowlers that can hit the pitch hard and minimise bad balls and you’ve got a chance. The history of the game tells you that,’ said Broad, whose preparations so far have included a study of each of the Test wickets taken by right arm seamers in Australia since 2015.
‘In England we are talking about express pace working over there but that’s not what I’m seeing. It’s Glenn McGrath-like bowling for long periods of time. It’s bringing the stumps into play and as a whole bowling unit repeating it time and again. That’s how you get success in Australia.
However, Broad (above) is using such memories as motivation for the upcoming Ashes
Broad says they haven’t yet studied their opponents but emphasises how important it is to do – recalling the difficulty they had in the past stopping Steve Smith of Australia
‘We know it’s a tough ask going there, there’s no doubting that because we have taken brilliant teams there in the past and been beaten but we have to use what’s in our armoury and that is world-class relentlessness. We have guys who move the ball consistently.’
India were particularly successful in muzzling Steve Smith last winter, something England have struggled to do in the past.
‘They shut down one side of the wicket to him, bowling over leg stump almost. What you can’t do with someone like Smith is miss your length on both sides of the wicket. He’s very good at punishing you if you do and accumulating,’ Broad said.
‘So far we haven’t worked on any of their players but there will be different ideas and I’m completely open to them. It’s quite an English mindset to set a field of three slips and a gully but there will be times when you need to look to take your wickets in other ways.’
Having torn a calf muscle in August, Broad has been undergoing rehab for several weeks and has been bowling with the Kookaburra ball used in Australia both at the ECB’s Loughborough academy base and at Wimbledon Cricket Club, across the road from its more famous tennis equivalent.
Progress has been on schedule but, fearful of his combative spirit becoming a hindrance to that, has stopped short of a full-on practice until after disembarking the November 4 flight.
With Archer and Olly Stone both sidelined with injury, the onus will once again fall upon Broad and James Anderson
‘I am not going to bowl at a batter until we land in Australia, just because I can’t control my competitive instincts,’ he said.
‘When you over-pitch and the ball gets belted back past you, even in the net you can’t help think “I’m going to try a bit harder now.” It’s hard to control the intensity and I might put myself in danger.’
And so it is optimism with which Broad will set off on his fourth Ashes tour, surrounded by England’s best available players, following a blanket commitment to tour despite lingering uncertainty over the Covid and bubble protocols to which they must adhere.
‘I don’t feel there was enough detail to either commit or pull out. It is what it is. There’s nothing set in stone particularly so you wouldn’t really know what you are pulling out of,’ Broad said.
‘It wouldn’t surprise me at all if players pull out while we are there. We have seen that on Ashes tours before and for me it has always been more likely that players will pull out if things change in Australia while we are there rather than before we go.’
Stuart Broad was speaking at the LV= Insurance “In With Heart” Tour, showcasing recipients of #Funds4Runs grants, a £1 million joint initiative between the ECB and LV= Insurance to support grassroots cricket. Visit lv.com/gi/cricket