When international cricket returned after the forced break due to the coronavirus pandemic, England had a luxury of having as many as at least six fast bowlers fit and firing. Each one of them made a case to be in the starting XI. But with England playing just three fast bowlers in addition to Ben Stokes and off-spinner Dom Bess, somebody had to miss out. And it was Stuart Broad.
The veteran fast bowler faced the axe as England opted to go with the extra pace of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. During that first Test, Broad was ‘angry, frustrated and gutted’. It was the first home Test he had missed since 2012 which broke a streak of 51 successive Test matches in England. However, Broad returned to the XI for the second and third Test and ended up being Man of the Series.
In those two Test matches, Broad wreaked havoc as he picked up 16 wickets, including a 10-wicket haul in the third Test. In the process, he also became only the fourth fast bowler and seventh overall to scale 500 Test wickets. But the 34-year-old pacer admitted that he considered hanging up his boots. Broad was at the top of his game and was bowling as well as ever. Yet, he couldn’t find a spot in the starting XI.
“Were there thoughts of retirement going round my head? One hundred per cent,” Broad was quoted saying to The Daily Mail.
“Because I was so down. I was expecting to play, which is always a bit of a dangerous thing in sport, but I felt I deserved to play. If I had had a different conversation with the coach the day after and the coach had said you are not in our plans … well if you are not in England’s plans when you are bowling as well as you can, you are pretty screwed,” Broad added.
The axe didn’t go down well with the Nottinghamshire fast bowler. He said that it was a different situation being dropped now at 34 when compared to before. Moreover, the bio-secure or the bio-bubble environment didn’t help his cause either. He was in his room, all by himself, nowhere to go.
“I can’t think of many times I have been down like that. When I have been dropped before, I can go ‘Fair enough, good decision, can’t really argue with that’. This time, when Stokesy (Ben Stokes) told me I wasn’t playing, I felt my body go into shakes. I could barely speak. It was a different situation,” Broad said.
“I wasn’t playing, I was staying in a single room. I didn’t sleep for two days, I was nowhere. A different decision could definitely have been made with my emotions of how I was feeling.”
The 140-Test veteran has his eyes set on the Ashes tour of 2021-22 down under. The last time he travelled to Australia for the Ashes, Broad returned with 11 wickets at an average of 47.73. However, he believes he can perform in Australia. Overall, in 12 Test matches in Australia, Broad has taken 34 wickets at an average of 37.18.
“I believe I can perform in Australia in 18 months’ time and my record is suggesting I can. I have got a huge, burning desire to go and win in Australia and generally when I have got a burning desire like that, I can drive things forward. It’s funny when we were all in lockdown if you had said to me: ‘If your career was to end now how would you feel?’ I would have said: “I’m good, I’ve loved it, I’ve had some great memories, I could walk away really content and happy, I’m very fortunate to have got where I’ve got to’,” Broad further added.
However, that thought of being dropped for the first Test still haunts Broad. It makes him angry to think that he thought he might never bowl another ball for England.
“Then, when that became reality before the first Test and I get told I’m not playing and theoretically I might never bowl another ball for England, I was angry. It made me think: ‘I’m not happy to finish now, I’m not ready to leave the game’. Am I happy with my life? Absolutely. Am I happy for my career to finish now? Absolutely not,” Broad was quoted saying.
England will be up against Pakistan in a three-match Test series which starts on the 5th of August. They’ve named an unchanged 14-man squad that played the third and last Test against West Indies.