England pacer Stuart Broad admitted he hasn’t been his best in recent times, but is confident of coming back strongly after remodelling his action through inspiration from senior teammate James Anderson as well as Richard Hadlee.
Being left out of the XI for the first two Tests during the three-match series in spin-friendly Sri Lanka, which England won 3-0, gave Broad the time to reflect on his action and do some remedial work to better suit the limits of his body, he said.
At 32, Broad, who is the joint eighth-highest wicket-taker in Test cricket with 433 scalps, knows age is catching up with him. In fact, he feels the 2019 Ashes will be his last at home. His remedial work has centred around making his action more ‘economical’.
“Sitting on the sidelines for a period of time during the Test tour of Sri Lanka before Christmas possessed benefits I hope will pay dividends for what I envisage will be my last home Ashes later this year,” Broad wrote in his Mail on Sunday column.
“Time to work on the technical side of my bowling is something I rarely get because I’m always in competition mode, but the spin-dominated series allowed me to tinker with my run-up ahead of playing in the final match in Colombo.”
Broad has worked on his run-up and release position, among other tweaks. “This time last year I did a lot of work on my wrist position and then took six wickets in the first innings against New Zealand in Christchurch, so I hope the changes to my run-up will have a similarly positive effect,” he wrote.
For a role model, Broad doesn’t have to look much further than his new-ball partner, Anderson, who at 36 is still causing batsmen heaps of problems. In fact, Anderson has become significantly more effective in recent years. Since 2014, he averages 21.49 against a career average of 26.98.
Broad recalled being inspired while watching Anderson at The Oval last summer. “He’s got quite a short, rhythmical run-up, I was at mid-on and I just thought: he looks like a Rolls Royce here. It made me think that I should try something similar.
“He might be my team-mate but Jimmy is also one of my big inspirations. You only have to look back three years ago to early 2016 in South Africa, where I had a good time of things, and Jimmy was receiving a lot of stick about him being past it.
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“AB de Villiers came out and said he had lost his pace and I saw that was hurting him. He dismissed it as a load of rubbish but admitted he might be lacking a bit of rhythm and vowed to get it back.
“Jimmy made the change at the age of 32 and has been unbelievable since. Why can’t I do the same?”
But inspiration comes from multiple sources, and Broad was on the lookout for any tips that could help him “stay compact and strong” and also give him “more control”. His search led him to videos of Hadlee on YouTube, especially his final Test at Edgbaston.
Broad reached out to the legend himself and Hadlee, who finished with 431 scalps from just 86 Tests in a career spanning 18 years, was more than willing to help.
“I got in contact with Sir Richard, who played with my father, Chris, at Nottinghamshire and he sent me a detailed, two-page email in reply about why he changed and what he did. It was awesome. That in particular was what inspired me to go for it.”
Broad got a chance to trial the changes in the final Test in Colombo, and he feels positive about it. “It seems to be going well despite being so new to me. A new, slower ball can take four to five months to be bed in, but when I tried it out in the Colombo Test, even though I only bowled 11 overs it felt good, rhythmical and if I can bowl it in 45-degree heat, I can bowl it in England no problem,” wrote Broad.
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Broad hopes the tweaks go a long way in prolonging his career, but more immediately, he hopes it brings him rewards in the home Ashes. “Shortening my run up, making myself more compact at the crease and heightening my release position will hopefully move me on again because I’ve got aims to play at the top level for the foreseeable future. In the shorter term everything I am doing is geared towards those matches against Australia starting in August.”
The fast bowler will get to further try out the action in the away Test series against West Indies, starting 23 January.