Stuart Broad: Chris Broad, Alastair Cook and Michael Vaughan on England’s retiring bowler

Stuart Broad prepares to speak to the media after announcing his retirement
Stuart Broad retires with over 800 international wickets to his name

A version of this article was first published in July 2020.

Stuart Broad is the premature baby who grew up to be a fearsome fast bowler.

The 37 year old man who announced his retirement on Saturday, won 602 wickets in 167 Tests, making him the second most successful pacemaker in Test history behind teammate James Anderson.

These are the stories of those who know Broad best. Son of a Test hitter, Nottingham Forest fan, bad rapper and prolific wicket taker.

“He weighed 2 pounds 2 ounces”

Broad was born 12 weeks premature on June 24, 1986 at City Hospital in Nottingham. His mother, Carole, was a teacher and his father chris played 25 Tests as the fly-half for England.

Stuart Broad with his father Chris
Stuart Broad with his father Chris, who played in England’s Ashes victory in Australia in 1986-87

It weighed 2 pounds 2 ounces. He was very small, immediately put in an incubator and we were informed of the slight deficiencies he had. He stayed in the hospital for a month and as he got older everything seemed to be getting better.

We were a sporting family. There was a lot of sport practiced and talked about. It was always football in the winter, maybe a bit of hockey or rugby, then cricket in the summer.

When he was four or five, when I was playing in Nottinghamshire, he came to Trent Bridge.

There were always a number of children who wanted to play. There was a sandpit near the scoreboard where they put stumps and played cricket.

When I moved to Gloucestershire, Courtney Walsh was the favorite of Stuart and his sister Gemma. Courtney was happy to play Stuart and Gemma would be on the court. He holds a very special place in their hearts.

I’ve often tried to strike up a conversation about cricket with him, but he tends to ignore those comments, which I can understand.

It’s frustrating, certainly in the last two years when he’s had batting issues. I asked if he wanted to talk about it and he said “I’m a bowler, dad”.

He was such a fragile child. For him to become this 6-foot-5, record-breaking fast bowler… I am absolutely amazed and extremely proud.

“The pads exceeded his waist”

Young Broad was taken to watch cricket at Egerton Park CC, where John Bailey is a former president.

Childhood photo of Stuart Broad
Broad was first taken to watch cricket at Egerton Park by his father

He was a little boy to begin with and he was wearing a cricket sweater that must have belonged to his father. The sleeves were long and it hung down past her back. When he put his pads on, they had to be above his waist and the bat was too big for him.

Stuart was a drummer, a very good drummer. Our court is on an island, surrounded by rivers, and he liked to hit the ball in the water.

It was amazing how he transformed into a bowler as he grew up. You would see him at the end of one season, then you wouldn’t recognize him at the start of the next season because of how quickly he was growing.

The only thing about his bowling was that when he started his run-up he shuffled a lot. His feet were doing 10 to the dozen on the spot, and we tried to get him to stop that by walking and bowling.

He always complained about having to pick up the boundary flags or having to put the heavy board back in front of the score box at the end of the game. I know he liked being at the clubhouse where the players were having a drink. He probably snuck a quick half.

You could see there was something. We didn’t expect him to play for England, but you could tell he was going to play county cricket.

“He’s a game teacher”

Broad’s first taste of county cricket was in Leicestershire. Two years into his professional arc, he was playing for England in the 2007 T20 World Cup, where he was crushed for six sixes by India’s Yuvraj Singh. A teammate at departmental and international level was jeremy snape.

It was pre-season. He had just arrived from Oakham School as a tall, lanky, passionate youngster. It was windy at the time but Stuart played for two straight hours, with good pace. As senior players, we looked the other way and thought he had something. He then ran off to put on his pads and we extended practice to play against him.

He came and played in the Twenty20 final in 2006 and in the semi-finals had a duel with Ronnie Irani. Broady was there, sharing a few words, going chest to chest and wanting to show he was a top young player. He looked so comfortable at this level.

A year later, it was the six sixes. How do you deal with being confronted with this in a world tournament? This would be the end for 50% of the players, another 45% would disappear and 5% would emerge even stronger. That’s what Stuart did.

Even at first he was technically aware. People won’t know he’s incredibly analytical.

He also wants to know the data, science, images or map of the terrain. I interviewed him for my own research and he told me that he had been presented with stats that showed his average against lefties was not particularly good compared to righties.

After that, he left and worked on left-handed bowling for six months in a row.

This data-driven approach wasn’t something I saw in his early years, but he became a teacher of the game.

“I will see his name on my phone and I will know what it is”

Michael Vaughan and Stuart Broad
Broad became the 638th man to play Test cricket for England in December 2007

Broad made his Test debut against Sri Lanka in December 2007. The England captain that day was Michael Vaughan, who has since made a career in the media.

All the research I got was that we had a wonderful up-and-coming bowler, a decent batsman, and a mentally strong character. He ticked all the boxes.

He was very confident. Not in an arrogant way, but he was very confident. He liked to talk about the game. He had been brought up around international cricket, so he knew what it was all about.

With some players that you know by the way they walk into the locker room, they’re going to be there for many years. That first test in Sri Lanka, we were in the field for days, but he never ducked or stopped running.

He was one of the first young bowlers I had to create his own pitches. He asked me for advice, and pretty much every time he asked, he got it because I could see what he was trying to accomplish.

We left together during the last Ashes series in Australia. He likes the things I like – wine, gin, golf. He is good company and he has a bit of a joke. You can discuss most things with him – football, cricket, most aspects of life.

He will be great as an expert. Sometimes when I’ve written or said something about him, I’ll see his name pop up on my phone and know what it’s about. I will respond immediately.

He’ll have a little fun with me and I’ll hold the phone away from my ear while he rambles on.

I’ll say “are you done?” then I’ll explain why I said what I said and we’ll have a good debate about it. At the end, he’ll say “OK”, and we’ll move on.

“He wanted to beat before the 60s at Trent Bridge”

Alastair Cook and Stuart Broad
54 of Broad’s tests were under the command of Alastair Cook

Of Broad’s 167 Tests for England, he has played most games under the former captain Alastair Cook.

He always had the stubborn side in him. If you are going to have a discussion with him, you must be very clear about your argument because if he knows it is coming he will be very well prepared.

When I was captain there were times when he could be grumpy, but we’re talking about the determination that makes him as good as he is.

Yes, there were frustrating moments, but it was never malicious. As captain, you’d rather have someone with their own ideas of what’s best than a “yes”.

His golf is good. He’s a brilliant player from tee to green, good as he is, but he can’t quibble. It’s kind of funny to see him try.

I bought him a Phil Mickelson chipping book because I thought he needed to learn from a left-handed maestro. I don’t know how far he got into it, because I saw him play not long ago and he threw his chip in the water.

He cares about others more than people realize. He regularly checked on his teammates. Maybe people don’t see that. They see the headstrong bowler who might get angry at a defender, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I don’t think anyone can predict when his spells would arrive. When it absolutely 100% clicks for him, when he finds the perfect length, he’s a handful because he’s so skilled.

On the day of 8-15, he wanted to strike first. James Anderson was injured, but who stepped in to deliver the performance? He owes me for deciding to go bowling when he wanted to hit.

Broady can lie in bed at night and think “when there was a big moment in a high pressure game, I delivered more than my fair share of chances”, and that must be a great feeling.

“He thinks he can rap”

On the day Broad marked his career 8-15 against Australia at Trent Bridge, he shared the new ball with Mark Bois.

Stuart Broad with his teammates in Ashes 2015
Stuart Broad was part of four Ashes winning England teams

I met him before playing for England, at a fast bowlers training camp in South Africa. He sat me down to talk cricket, give me tips and his thoughts on my bowling. It was really nice of him to go out of his way to do this.

He loves his football. You can never say “Notts Forest” in front of him. It always has to be “Nottingham Forest”.

Incredibly, he also likes to rap, but he has the classiest accent you’ve ever heard. It’s not quite the same as American hip-hop artists who know how to put all the rhymes together.

It can be in training, or when we have music in the locker room, all of a sudden you hear this chic rap, and you have to tell him “that’s not how it goes”.

One of the best times I’ve had with him was during Ashes 2015. We had a tough first day at Lord’s, Australia had racked up the runs, and on the way to the floor the next day, Broad and Anderson were in front of the car, me and Joe Root were in the back.

We were all singing Hold Back the River by James Bay at the top of our lungs. We even took an extra lap around Regent’s Park so we could play the song again. We must have arrived only five minutes before the team chat, but we were in a much better mood.

He is brilliant on the pitch. Halfway through or halfway through, he’ll help me out with maps or inflate my tires when I need them. I also really enjoyed playing with him – he is so good to laugh and joke with him in the middle.

The word “legend” is used often, but in this case it rings true. He is a legend.

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