In what will go down as one of the great cricket interviews of our times, Stuart Broad minced no words when he spoke to Sky Sports during the course of the first Test against West Indies in Southampton.
Frustrated at being dropped for the series-opener, Broad, who had last missed a home Test eight years ago when he was rested against West Indies in 2012, said he was gutted.
“I’ve been frustrated, angry and gutted - because it’s quite a hard decision to understand. I’ve probably bowled the best I’ve ever bowled in the last couple of years. I felt like it was my shirt having been in the team through the Ashes and going to South Africa and winning there,” he added.
The 34-year-old, who finished as the team’s top wicket-taker in the Ashes last year and in the previous series in South Africa, was speaking with a calmness of someone who knew clearly what he was saying. And it was what he said next, with a twinkle in his eye, that stands out now.
“It is hard to take but also I’m quite pleased I feel frustrated and feel gutted and angry because if I didn’t I’d have a different decision to make. I don’t think I’ve got anything to prove - England know what I can do, the selectors know what I can do - and when I get that opportunity again you can bet I’ll be on the money,” Broad added.
Well, what a safe bet that would have turned into. Brought back into the side for the Test matches in Manchester, Broad picked up 16 wickets (six in the second Test, 10 in the third) to finish with the player of the series award.
And on Tuesday, he became only the seventh bowler in the history of Test cricket to pick up 500 wickets. He reached the milestone when he dismissed Kraigg Brathwaite on the fifth day of the deciding third Test against the West Indies.
England, of course, completed a come-from-behind 2-1 series win.
Broad has joined the elite club after teammate James Anderson, Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne, Anil Kumble, Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh; the Englishman is the fourth pacer to do so.
Leading wicket-takers in Test cricket
Broad has the highest average among the four pacers with 500 Test wickets. But, given the graph his career has been over the last couple of years, this is arguably the best phase of his career. And fittingly, after the three Tests against West Indies, his average dropped below 28 for the first time in his career. At 27.94, this is the lowest his bowling average has been over the course of his career that started with a solitary Test in 2007 (in Sri Lanka).
If he keeps up his current form, 2020 might well turn out to be the best year in his career. His average and strike rate, at this moment, is the best it has been in a calendar year.
Stuart Broad's Test career by calendar year
|Year||Mat||Inns||Wkts||Best inns.||Best match|
Of course, with Broad (and indeed Anderson), the asterisk that is usually attached is that they do bulk of their wicket-taking at home. While the merits of that argument require a separate data analysis on its own, Broad indeed has much better figures at home than overseas. His best numbers, given the type of bowler he is, are in England, South Africa and New Zealand. The one that stands out as odd is his numbers in UAE (Pakistan’s home venue), where he actually boasts his best average.
Stuart Broad's performance in Tests
|Mat||Inns||Wkts||BBI||BBM||Ave||SR||5-WI / 10-WM|
|in England||79||152||321||8/15||11/121||25.91||50.30||13 / 3|
|in South Africa||12||22||45||6/17||8/99||23.95||54.90||1|
|in West Indies||10||16||26||5/85||5/85||31.15||71.00||1|
|in New Zealand||9||15||34||6/51||8/126||28.47||60.10||2|
|in Sri Lanka||3||5||3||1/33||2/104||83.00||164.00||0|
Stuart Broad's career by home/away
Broad, of course, enjoys bowling against West Indies. They are the only opponents against whom he has taken two 10-wicket match hauls, the latest coming in the series decider.
Broad has excellent numbers against New Zealand and India as well.
|Opponents||Mat||Inns||Wkts||BBI||BBM||Ave||SR||5-WI / 10-WM|
|v AUS||32||58||118||8/15||11/121||29.35||55.1||7 / 1|
|v WI||19||34||73||7/72||11/165||24.90||51.6||3 / 2|
During the course of his memorable performance in the series-decider, Broad also overtook Anderson in the list of England’s most prolific wicket-takers in the fourth innings of a match.
Most fourth innings wickets in Test cricket
|SK Warne (AUS)||60||53||138||7|
|R Herath (SL)||41||40||115||12|
|M Muralitharan (SL)||37||35||106||7|
|GD McGrath (AUS)||54||53||103||5|
|A Kumble (INDIA)||37||35||94||5|
|NM Lyon (AUS)||44||43||81||3|
|MG Johnson (AUS)||40||39||80||4|
|SCJ Broad (ENG)||55||53||79||2|
|JM Anderson (ENG)||58||56||78||3|
|CA Walsh (WI)||40||39||66||1|
As Joe Root pointed out after the match (and as many of the fans of the game know by now) there are phases when Broad gets into a zone where he is near unplayable. Many of his memorable performances have come when he has had that one unbroken spell where he goes berserk.
Another key to Broad’s evolution, as has been pointed out by former captains Nasser Hussain and Michael Atherton during their commentary stints, has been the lengths that Broad bowled lately in his career. Apart from going fuller more frequently, Broad has also targetted the stumps more often, especially in England: resulting in a high percentage of LBWs and bowled dismissals.
Of course, among active bowlers, only Anderson has taken more Test wickets. In fact, no one has taken more wickets than the two England pacers since Broad made his debut in 2007.
Given Broad still seems fit and firing, while also restricting himself to Test cricket, he has a few years of red-ball wicket-taking ahead of him. As Courtney Walsh said in his tweet while wishing Broad: “Sky is the limit, next step: 600.”