For a man just back from leading England to an early knockout in the world Twenty20, and on the back of a season that has seen three wins out of 11 tests, a sorry record that has seen his country lose their number one spot in the world rankings, Stuart Broad is in a remarkably bullish mood as he makes final preparations before leaving for India on Thursday.
The 26-year-old all-rounder has become an indispensable component of the England team but, after a succession of outstanding seasons for county and country, Broad has endured a difficult year, accused of losing his pace, of playing a part in the twitter parody of Kevin Pietersen by a man reported to be a personal friend of Broad’s, and of being a part of an England team that has lost it’s mojo.
Broad accepts the last point with hands held high, but not the rest. “I returned home from the world T20 with mixed emotions,” he explains. “I was very proud to captain my country but it can be carnage in T20 and even the best death bowlers in the world, like Malinga, can go for 50-plus. We might have done better at the death ourselves, but what really let us down was losing consistently two or three wickets inside the first six overs.
“I’ve heard some of the criticism levelled at me but, seeing that I was selected three weeks ago in the ICC world test team of the year I couldn’t have been doing too badly this year, could I? I dropped a bit of pace against South Africa because my focus was more on accuracy but, to be honest, I don’t trust the Sky speedometer and at the T20 just finished I was comfortably making speeds of 85 and 86 mph. My stats are up this year too so I’m pretty happy with my form.
“And as for the KP twitter issue, I made a statement immediately when it all came out making it clear I didn’t know anything about it. I know the guy involved, as do many, many other cricketers but, for some reason, the story linked me and only me to him. He (Richard Bailey) apologised to me for putting me in an awkward situation, which it did, but me and KP have no problems over it.”
Pietersen, of course, has dominated much of the England talk over the past year, and he continues to do so now that he has made up with the England team, the management and the ECB, made himself available for all formats of the game and been subsequently selected for the India tour.
Broad seems comfortable with the re-introduction of England’s best batsman. “Look, he’s one of our best players, and when you go to a place like India you need your best players. We’re grown men. Our meetings last week were behind closed doors and that’s the way I’d like them to stay, but we’ve all bought into it 100%. To be honest, despite what’s been made out, Kevin’s issues were far more with the ECB than with the players.
“Personally I’m delighted he’s back. I was really disappointed when he retired from T20 back in June because I needed him opening the innings for us as an experienced and explosive player. It was one of many distractions that played a part in our eye not quite being on the ball. Happily he’s had a change of heart, time’s a great healer and after a win or two the whole thing will be completely forgotten.”
Therein lies the problem, though. A win or two? Judging by England’s recent record in the sub-continent, and especially against spin, India in India does not appear to offer too many wins. Broad begs to differ.
“We learnt a lot from losing last year in the UAE against Pakistan and the first test in Sri Lanka,” he insists. “The biggest thing is that we took December off last year and then went on tour. This time we’re in India for a month before we play them. We shouldn’t be surprised by anything they throw at us and we should be totally acclimatised to the conditions. We will have a wealth of choices, from three seamers and a spinner to even three spinners and two seamers, and I believe we’ll hit the ground running.
“We’ve lost our number one status and the hunted have become the hunters again. Having been at the top of the world rankings we’re desperate to get back and this time create a dynasty. To do that we must win the key moments like we used to, score 450 not 300, take our catches like we did in Australia – I mean, Hashim Amla batted wonderfully for South Africa but we dropped him nine times in four tests - and the lower order batters, especially myself and Graeme Swann, must contribute more.
“The other important aspect about this tour is to embrace India like we did Australia. I’ve toured twice to India. The first time we stayed holed up in our hotel room because of the Mumbai bombings and the second time it was the same during the ICC World Cup. This time we aim to go out and about and enjoy a cricket mad country. The last thing we should do is stay in a hotel for two months.”
What about the security threat? England remain high-profile targets. Broad smiles. “If they’re going to get us they’re going to get us.”
The role of vice-captain appears to be Broad’s, although he insists nobody has told him. The T20 role makes him a captain of one out of three formats with Alistair Cook now leading both the test and ODI team. Does Broad see him taking over one day?
“I think it’s impossible for anyone to captain England in all three formats in England,” he says. “We play all year round, unlike anyone else, and it would just break you to be in charge of everything. As a bowler I couldn’t physically do it in any case. Would I like to captain the test team one day? Who wouldn’t? But Cooky will play until he’s 45, feature in 150 tests and score over 30 test tons, by which time I’ll be long finished.”
That, though, is the distant future. The near future sees Broad and his chums play in India and New Zealand until April, with barely a week at home over Christmas. Tough gig?
Broad shakes his head and laughs. “I love it,” he responds. “And I’m hoping we’ll be back at the top at the end of it all.”