Broad seeks to strike right 'balance'
The gloves will be off from the moment England begin their Ashes tour in earnest against Western Australia this week.
Stuart Broad acknowledged today that he needs to be measured with his own aggressive streak, but makes no secret of the fact that England will be expecting Australia to test them mentally and physically from the outset.
He and his team-mates are relishing that prospect, and Broad points out the best way to prepare will be to treat the three-day warm-up match at the WACA, starting on Friday, as the most serious of dress rehearsals.
“I’ve got a competitive spirit. We know that Australia fight very hard and play cricket in the right way,” he said. “It’s international cricket, so you expect that.”
Broad overstepped the mark, by his own admission, in last summer’s Edgbaston Test - throwing back a dead ball at the end of an over, and unintentionally hitting Pakistan batsman Zulqarnain Haider on the hand.
“It’s something I obviously need to find a good balance to,” he believes. “I know I bowl at my best when I’m in a bit of a ‘bubble’, emotional and competitive.
“I’d expect the Aussies to (try to) get under each of our players’ skins. But that’s not something we’re scared of; it’s something we’re going to thrive on.”
England have beaten Australia at their last attempt in each of the three international formats. But few can possibly still need reminding too that they have lost every Ashes series Down Under since 1986/87.
Broad spelled out: “We’ve not won for 24 years and we’ve only won a handful of Test matches in that time.
“Australia won virtually every game here last year. We’re under no illusions - we know it’s going to be tough.
“But we have to focus on what we’re doing well. We had a great time of it last summer, and it’s important we continue with that momentum - and that can only start in the warm-up games, making sure we’re right on the button.
“Australia are one of the best teams in the world - and we want to become the best team in the world.
“You can only do that by coming here and performing strongly. That’s our aim - and that starts from ball one against WA.”
Broad does not discount England’s recent victories over Australia as a factor this winter; but neither is he going to rely on them to help the tourists hold sway.
“I’m coming here without any fear, and looking to enjoy the experience,” he said.
“We can take confidence from the last Ashes, the Twenty20 World Cup final victory and the one-day series in England last summer. But we do realise it’s a fresh start in Australia, and we need to start again and hit the ground running.
“We know what an important week this is. We’re going to take the WA game very seriously, and try and get some really good preparation in before the first Test.”
Broad has had a chance already for a little last-minute advice from his father and fellow Ashes winner Chris.
Match referee duties brought Broad senior to Perth to oversee yesterday’s Twenty20 international at the WACA, which Australia lost by seven wickets to Sri Lanka.
His son had a quick chat with the man who hit three hundreds at the top of the order in that 1986/87 victory.
There will doubtless be another Broad family summit when father and son’s schedules coincide again next week.
But for now, Stuart reported: “He just said ‘go and enjoy it - it’s a fantastic tour to be on’.
“I’m going to catch up with him again in Adelaide. No specific tips so far. But I think he had a bit of success here in 1987, so I hope we can follow suit.”
Back to the present, he knows there is much hard work to do for England this week.
“We’ve got a Test match here, so this match will be great preparation for the bowlers to get their skills right,” he added.
“We will have to adjust our lengths, not bowl too short here at the WACA - because the bounce will aid the taller bowlers anyway.
“We know early wickets are going to be key in Australia, so we’ll certainly be making sure we make good use of the new ball. If we do that, we’ll put their batsmen under pressure.”
Another key will be off-spinner Graeme Swann, none the worse after being struck on his bowling hand by Tim Bresnan in England’s first nets session this morning.
Broad will be relying on Swann to make his usual impact.
“We’ve got the world’s best spinner and seam bowlers who are enjoying their cricket, communicating all the time and learning from each other,” he said.
“There’s a lot of confidence. We performed really well last summer and, certainly within the bowling unit, we’re very comfortable.”