Self-belief helped Broad reach the top
When I gave Stuart Broad his cap on his Test debut as a 21-year-old in Colombo 13 years ago, he already had a fine cricket brain.
From an early age, he was a player who liked to plan his spells, set his own fields. Of all the England bowlers I played with, I always felt Broad could be a Test captain. That is why I knew he would have a long Test career. He knew what he wanted to achieve at 21, but never in my wildest dreams did I think he would take 500 Test wickets. To survive 13 years in Test cricket doing his job is remarkable.
It is not just bowling. It is all the travel, staying in hotels, pressure and relentless scrutiny of performance. Most players get worn down by that within a few years. Add in the physical demands of fast bowling as well --- the pain of injuries and hours on a massage table --- and it is even more of an achievement to last so long. He has endured ups and downs as well. He was dropped two weeks ago and on many different occasions he has been questioned as a bowler and sometimes for his attitude.
I have always tried to trigger Broad, sometimes winding him up deliberately. I know he needs prodding. I have said and written things to get a certain reaction out of him. There is still a little bit of the captain in me writing columns about Stuart.
I am trying to help him because he needs revving up sometimes. I send him messages to rile him. It is what happens when you give a player a cap. I have an affiliation with Nasser Hussain because he gave me my Test cap. It is the way it works. It is a chain you cannot break.
Stuart and I have all sorts of debates on WhatsApp about cricket, life, golf, gin, bars and restaurants, you name it. I enjoy his company. I enjoy his competitive nature. Even in a five-a-side football match he thinks he is the best player on the pitch or is strategically creating a system to win. He is that kind of character.
He will know what he wants his life to look like in 10 years’ time. He will take that drive and professionalism from his bowling into whatever he does next as a pundit. It helps growing up around cricket as a child. His dad taught him the game and a love of cricket. His dad is still involved in cricket and Broad will be the same. It is his life.
Perhaps over the years, he has not had the spotlight he deserves. It is always Broad-Anderson because they are a wonderful partnership. But you have to do it yourself. Yes, it helps having Jimmy building dots at the other end, but Stuart has to wake up in the morning and deliver his balls on a good length. He has given that. Nobody else. You have to reinvent yourself to last as long as Stuart. He keeps challenging himself, rejigging things slightly. He has set himself new short-term goals to achieve and revise his goals.
In time, when he writes a book, we will read about what he always had in his mind and was aiming for. Knowing Stuart, he has probably half-written it already. His book will show what a good cricket brain he has. If captaincy was just about tactics in the middle, he could have done it, but there is more to it than just that. It is about being aware of others as well.
He can go on. When you are bowling as well as he is now and you have this level of energy then why walk away? What has impressed me in this series is his pace. He has had it up to 85mph, which is important for his style of bowling.
Both Anderson and Broad have earned the right to retire whenever they feel the time is right. They will know in their own minds when to go.
It will be interesting to see if another seam bowler in our time reaches 500 wickets.
Broad will be thinking, “Can I get to 600?” But I want Anderson and Broad to retire as the two leading wicket-taking, seam bowlers in the history of cricket. What a legacy that would be.
The Daily Telegraph