As Stuart Broad prepares for his 16th Test match at Lord’s, starting against Sri Lanka on Thursday, he is asked to cast his mind back to his fifth. Over an extraordinary few days in 2010, Broad scored what remains his only Test century, putting on what remains a record stand for the eighth wicket in Tests (332 with Jonathan Trott); but it was the revelations about the activities of Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir that left their indelible mark on the game.
Amir, the youngest of the trio, was on Sunday named in Pakistan’s Test squad for their upcoming tour of England and is set to return to the scene of the crime – for which he served time in a young offenders institute – next month, although a decision on whether he will be granted a UK visa is still pending.
Broad, however, does not harbour any ill will towards Amir, who is yet to play a Test match since completing a five-year ICC ban for spot-fixing. He is also still proud of his place on the honours board, next to a score of 169 – the second-highest tally by a No. 9 and, perhaps more importantly to Broad, eclipsing his dad’s Test best by seven runs.
“It’s certainly not devalued in my mind, I still scored those runs and am still on the honours board,” he said. “I think the result was devalued. We couldn’t celebrate – we didn’t celebrate – it was all a very strange time. But I don’t think any feelings will be dragged into this Test match from that Test match. I think only three or four players are playing in the England team now who were then, and Pakistan have had a huge change over.
“I don’t think any ill feeling or negativity from the players will have carried through – the crowd might be a different story. We know that Lord’s is a passionate crowd and they all have their own minds.”
Amir made his international comeback with Pakistan’s limited-overs teams at the start of this year and, despite some initial resistance among team-mates, he has made an encouraging start to his second coming. Azhar Ali, Pakistan’s ODI captain, said last week that “toughest phase is over” for Amir and Broad said he had no issues with his inclusion.
“I think he’s served his time and the ICC have got their guidelines to what the punishments are for certain crimes and people have their opinion on that,” Broad said. “At the end of the day as an England team to win a Test series like that is a brilliant feeling and you want to play against the best possible team you can and for quality of bowler I don’t think there is much doubt that he is up there with anyone.
“I’ve not played him for six years but in 2010 he was a constant threat and he was Man of the Series I think. It swung round corners for him.”
While Broad no longer has pretensions to become the genuine allrounder that 2010 innings suggested he might, he has grown in stature as a bowler in the intervening period, recently becoming only the third England bowler to be ranked No. 1 in the world since the 1980s. His rise, following a haul of 6 for 17 in Johannesburg that set up England’s series win over South Africa, was swiftly followed by that of his team-mate James Anderson, who last week emulated Ian Botham, Steve Harmison and Broad in reaching the summit.
Despite taking ten wickets at 18.90 in two Tests against Sri Lanka, Broad actually fell to third, behind India’s R Ashwin – who has not played a Test since December, prompting Broad to joke: “So I would have been better off carrying drinks at the IPL.” Not that the famously taciturn Anderson has been moved to an outpouring of emotion. “He hasn’t actually mentioned it. I texted him when the rankings came out saying ‘having a drink for you – congratulations’. I think he is chuffed but you know what Jimmy is like – he’s certainly not given it a smile yet.”
Broad is, however, already plotting how to regain the mantle and, alongside Joe Root’s presence at No. 2 on the ICC batting list, it seems a comment made by Trevor Bayliss at England’s training camp in Spain on taking over as head coach last summer has lodged in the team’s consciousness.
“Getting to the No. 1 ranked team is the main aim but Trevor said to us in Spain when he took over ‘We aren’t going move forward as a team unless some of you players raise your games and get up those rankings – we aren’t going to be the best team in the world if you are sat at eight and you are sat at twelve.’ It’s quite an Australian way of saying it – it’s a sort-yourselves-out type thing.
“We’ve put some performances in that have taken us up the rankings – as a team, we are lying fourth but I think we are a bit better than that. We are a really good team at the moment, we have a lot of bases covered.”
That there is still room for improvement is something Broad quickly admits, too. First on the list will be rectifying England’s poor recent record of losing dead rubbers – even if the new Super Series concept has theoretically removed them – and securing a first whitewash in a series of three or more Tests since beating India 4-0 in 2011.
“That is what all the talk will be about this week for sure,” he said. “I can’t even think about when an England last clean swept a series of three. Five years ago is a long time.
“It is actually a bad habit we’ve got into. The performance against Australia at The Oval was awful, at Centurion we missed too many chances and fell away, so it is something we’re aware of and it is not good enough. With more focus on rising up the rankings then we can’t afford to make these mistakes.”
Should England wrap up a 3-0 series win over Sri Lanka, it might be another moment of quiet satisfaction for Bayliss, who Broad said has “started to instill a bit more of his beliefs on the team”. The Australian is unlikely to be overflowing with praise, in any case. Asked if a “Well done” from Bayliss meant more, Broad replied: “I don’t think I even got one for my 8 for 15… I’m not sure I’m getting one.” The smile suggested he didn’t too much mind.
Stuart Broad was speaking as a Hardys ambassador at 1853 Wine Shop in Weybridge. For exclusive wine offers, visit 1853wineclub.com.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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