Broad comes of age
Stuart Broad is hoping to take his career to the next level this winter - in the country which has already changed his life.
The fast bowler may be just 20 years of age, but he claims a trip to Australia two years ago was a defining moment in his passage from youth to manhood on and off the pitch.
A winter playing club cricket in Melbourne immediately after leaving school proved to be the turning point for Broad, whose career has been on a staggeringly steep upward curve ever since.
Part of the England Academy squad that will provide back-up for the Test side during the Ashes, Broad is seen by many as one of the favourites to be called up in the event of injuries.
And he returns to Australia this week - the squad fly out to Perth on Wednesday - buoyed by fond memories of his time down under.
“When I left school I took a gap year, went to Melbourne for six months and played club cricket,” he told ecb.co.uk.
“I went off my own back. It was quite a big step - I left the comfort of home and that's when I changed from a boy to a man.
“I grew up as a bloke and it helped massively as cricketer. It was a big time in my life and that helped on the pitch too.”
Few who have seen Broad in action - whether it be during Leicestershire’s Twenty20 Cup triumph this season or in an England one-day shirt towards the end of the summer - doubt he will form the backbone of the future Test attack.
But such a prospect looked distinctly unlikely as recently as 2004 when Broad finished his studies.
During his teenage years he was primarily a batsman who bowled, and it was not until he headed to Australia, having shot up in height, that he took the first steps to becoming an international fast bowler.
“I’d always bowled at school but not quickly,” added Broad, who stands at 6ft 6in. “The only time I picked up pace was when I played in Melbourne.
“I had the chance to open the batting and the bowling, and I just ran in all day.
“My body got used to bowling, I enjoyed a great rhythm, I was bowling nicely and I picked up some pace.
“I’m a tall bowler and height is a massive advantage on flatter pitches.
“Wickets tend to bounce a bit more out there and there probably isn't as much sideways movement, so I’d be very excited to get the opportunity to have a go on those wickets again.”
If Broad’s Australian experience helped shape the early stages of his professional career, his exploits this summer gave him added belief in his undoubted ability.
He narrowly missed out on a hat-trick on his international debut in the Twenty20 international against Pakistan, and showed a remarkable combination of aggression and composure with the ball during the subsequent NatWest Series.
“I never dreamed I would play for England at 20 and it was a surprise when I got the phone call to say I was in the one-day team,” he said.
“It was only two years ago that I left school but then again I've taken it in my stride.
“I felt really comfortable at that level – that's where I want to be playing my cricket.
“I just enjoyed the experience. The crowds were superb - luckily, I had a good experience on the Twenty20 finals day, where I played in front of a big crowd - and I wasn’t too nervous going into the one-day internationals.
“I knew if I bowled well I would be fine. In the end I didn't bowl as well as I could but I didn’t get hit around the park
“It’s given me a little taster of it and I'm hungry for more.”