Former England captain Michael Atherton said that star pace bowler Stuart Broad has shown that he still has the fire to achieve a lot more for in Test cricket, adding even 600 Test wickets is a possibility.

After being ignored for the series opener against the West Indies in Southampton, the 34-year-old pacer has roared back with scintillating performances in the remaining two Tests. He ended the third day of the series decider with 499 Test wickets, just one short of the coveted 500 mark.

“The mark of a champion sportsman is not when you get knocked down, but how you bounce back and we’ve seen that in this series with Stuart Broad,” Atherton is quoted as saying by Sky Sports.

“When you get left out, that’s when you find out a little bit more about yourself. Some players, when they get to that stage and get left out, they might just say, ‘Well, I’’ve done enough with my career’.

“But clearly Stuart Broad, with that fire in the belly he showed, has got more to come and he doesn’t just want to get 500 wickets - he wants to get up to 600 as well,” Atherton added.

Leading wicket-takers in Test cricket

Player Mat Wkts
M Muralitharan (ICC/SL) 133 800
SK Warne (AUS) 145 708
A Kumble (INDIA) 132 619
JM Anderson (ENG) 153* 589
GD McGrath (AUS) 124 563
CA Walsh (WI) 132 519
SCJ Broad (ENG) 140* 499
DW Steyn (SA) 93 439
N Kapil Dev (INDIA) 131 434
HMRKB Herath (SL) 93 433
As of the end of day three in third Test between England and West Indies

Broad, who is England’s all-time second highest wicket-taker in the longest format of the game, had minced no word in criticising the decision of leaving him out of the first Test, which the hosts lost against the West Indies.

But brought back into the side for the remaining two games, Broad went on to claim six wickets in the series-levelling second Test before handing England the advantage with eight wickets in the ongoing final Test. His England teammates hailed Broad, pointing out his ability to back up words with performances. Joe Root said that Broad should not be written off, given his quality.

“After being left out for the first Test at the Ageas Bowl, he had some things to say about it but my, has he backed up those words with actions. When you look at the way he’s bowled in this match, he just looks like he’s going to get a wicket every ball,” Atherton said.

Recently, Broad said he wanted to emulate compatriot James Anderson, who is still going strong at 37. The duo had been leading England’s bowling attack for years and are considered as one of the most successful fast bowling pairs in world cricket.

“Broad made the point that he’s actually quite a bit younger than James Anderson. Of course everyone brackets Broad and Anderson together because they’ve played together for so long,” Artherton said.

“True, he’s not going to get anywhere near Muttiah Muralitharan at 800 but just to be the fourth fast bowler to get 500 wickets would show remarkable longevity and stamina.

“He’s had a body that’s enabled him to do it and central contracts have helped as well - he doesn’t play white-ball and he doesn’t play much county cricket now either,” Atherton added.

“You leave out champion cricketers at your peril. At the moment, he’s just full of confidence with both bat and ball - a player at the top of his game.”

(With PTI inputs)