If you’re going to boo Stuart Broad this summer do it for the right reasons, writes Paul Johnson, who isn’t covering The Ashes for the first time in the last three series.
Gentlemanly conduct be damned. The Ashes are a war. Admittedly a war with none of the casualties of actual war, unless you count the career of Steve Harmison, which never quite recovered from that ball at the Gabba, or Mike Gatting, who probably still wonders how the ball of the century took his off stump, but be warned cricket is not a gentleman’s game these days, nor has it ever really been when England take on Australia.
Begging the question; why were Aussie cricket fans so upset when Stuart Broad failed to walk at Trent Bridge during the First Test of the last Ashes series in England?
All and sundry in Australia know Broad marches to the beat of his own privileged drum and does what suits him on the pitch, at times carrying himself with a haughty sense of entitlement when it comes to cricket handed down to him by his father, Chris.
Conversely he has been through a lot off the pitch with his step-mother committing suicide in 2010 after a battle with motor neurones disease and is reportedly a decent enough bloke away from the field.
But his decision not to walk on a heavy edge, rankled the Australian sporting public and has had him branded everything from a cheat to public enemy No 1.
A few years ago walking became the ‘cool and right’ thing to do when Aussie gloveman Adam Gilchrist started to take it upon himself to walk if he knew he had feathered one to the cordon.
A fine example to be sure, but it’s not and never has been for everyone. Plenty of Australians over time haven’t walked… including a couple of recent skippers.
It’s not exactly commonplace for cricketers from anywhere in the world to give up their wicket if they don’t have to, and certainly not the case when the urn is on the line so the argument about Broad’s actions being unbecoming of the game and not ‘in the spirit’ of cricket don’t wash.
Was I upset that Broad didn’t walk? Yes, it was an almighty edge.
Would I have given up my wicket if I was given ‘not out’ thanks to a shocking umpiring decision? Probably not. And especially not in Broad’s situation (admittedly I will never play Test cricket), but his runs won England that Test match and set the tone for the series.
Could Australia have won the series? Likely not. We were outplayed by a superior side at the time but Broad’s stance in the First Test became a catalyst for a wave of hate and vitriol that might not be entirely deserved, although he definitely made mistakes.
Funnily enough given the campaign that seems to be coming against Broad, including the selling of t-shirts and other merchandise that bare the slogan “Stuart Broad is a shit bloke,” I can’t help but feel a bit sorry for him, all he did was what was right for Queen and country, was within the rules of the game and was hardly the worst thing seen in an Ashes series.
The Ashes were contrived out of the English press proclaiming English cricket died at The Oval all the way back in 1882 because they were beaten by the convict boys from the isle of Australia.
Move forward over a century and not a lot has changed, Kevin Pietersen a man clearly confused about his own heritage: South African born, can speak Afrikaans, has a tribal tattoo and plays for Eng-er-land, labelled Aussies a group of convicts upon arrival to our shores… interesting, more on Pietersen in a second.
From an Australian point of view the worst thing to happen in The Ashes was when Douglas Jardine brought Leg Theory to ‘the colony’. His spearhead Harold Larwood was the fastest bowler in the world back then and in an unsporting manner employed the tactic of bowling at the bodies of the Australian cricketers, fast and rising deliveries were the norm in that 1932/33 series and leg theory was eventually outlawed for not being ‘in the spirit of the game’.
Neither is sledging but it is commonplace.
As for Broad his biggest mistake aside from a really poor display of removing his boot to get a session to lunch in the First Test is not owning the role of the villain in the piece.
For all Kevin Pietersen’s faults he loves to stir the pot so to speak, embraces the role of the ‘heel’ if you will, and to borrow a move from the industry that coined the term heel, you get the feeling if in the 1990s Kevin Pietersen was a WWF fan he would of loved watching ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase offering a kid $500 if he could bounce a ball 15 consecutively times before kicking the ball away just before the final bounce.
The point is Pietersen is comfortable in the role, Broad isn’t.
When Australia coach Darren Lehmann (hardly shy of a word himself during his playing days, and once in serious trouble for a racist remark against Sri Lanka in 2003) said he hoped “Australian fans make Broad cry,” there was an option.
Lehmann was forced to apologise, because, well, the world like it or not (I don’t) is obsessed with political correctness and the Australian coach was seen to be encouraging bullying – how dare he!
So Lehmann apologised, Broad in all his stuffy glory said he did not accept the apology. Any other response would have been better, he could have said ‘I want to make Australian cricket weep this summer’, ‘I look forward to making Aussie fans cry’ or ‘I accept the apology’, had he have done that, the banter would have been great all summer, instead he sulked, and despite the ‘cheating’ and the posturing, the time wasting, isn’t a sulker what Aussies really hate?
If you boo Stuart Broad this summer, don’t boo him for doing something most cricketers do anyway. Boo him for being sullen, entitled and having a sulk, when all he had to do was man-up.