Think back to the start of the Southern Ashes series, some time all the way back in October. Remember what a happy place everyone associated with England was in? Three Ashes wins in a row, soon to be followed by a fourth given the complete shambles that the opposition were: winless in nearly a year of Test cricket.
As if to try and distract from their own side’s failings, the Australian press ran a ridiculous campaign against Stuart Broad, mainly for the ridiculous crime of being at the other end of the pitch when Aleem Dar was having one of his (many) special moments. There’s already been far, far, far too much written about Broadgate but we’ll simply use a bit of maths to make our point:
Haddin + nick + not walking + incompetent umpire + a review = fair game
Broad + nick + not walking + incompetent umpire – any reviews = history’s greatest monster
Despite it not making any sense to anyone with half a brain, the Brisbane Courier Mail threw their weight fully behind the ‘Broad is bad’ campaign, leading to them looking even more ridiculous when he picked up five wickets on the opening day of the series. Plus their campaign to burn effigies of him in the street fell foul of Queensland’s stringent fire restrictions, leaving them with a whole kangaroo egg on their faces.
Across the five Test matches, Broad picked up 21 wickets at 27.52, impressive figures in most cases, even more so when your team is basically get smashed around Australia (like British backpackers used to do before that pesky exchange rate made beers cost around 30 quid a pint). While all around him melted in the sun (metaphorically in Trott and Swann’s cases, definitely not metaphorically in Jonny Bairstow’s) Broad continued to turn up and plug away manfully, throughout the Tests, ODIs and T20 matches.
At the age of 27, Broad is now somewhere around his peak. He already has 238 Test wickets, just 238 more than Chris Schofield, and with Jimmy Anderson’s Test career approaching its end, he’ll soon be the attack leader. Although no-one really has any idea who’ll be alongside him in that attack (Steve Finn should be there, but then it wouldn’t surprise us if he just gave up on cricket altogether, while Ben Stokes is the most likely to be around).
With the weight of leading some sort of ramshackle bunch, perhaps one featuring Scott Borthwick as the main spinner, most men would be crushed. Stuart Broad, on the other hand, seems to cherish that sort of challenge. The end result of his response to the Australian booboys (i.e. basically ignoring them) is that he ends this tour being an even more significant part of England’s future, with the possibility of the Test captaincy looming at some point in his future.
Of course, while Broad’s bowling has seemingly improved year on year, his batting has gone completely to shit. There was once a time when he was talked about as a potential number six; these days he’s a decent number ten. We’ll just blame Graham Gooch for that one and move quickly along.