England have a dilemma, and his name is Stuart Broad. 37 tests into his test career, and Broad is averaging a very average 36 with the ball. Given leeway in terms of his average and fairly poor return with the ball for the early part of his test career due to his young age, England will have wanted Broad to have kicked on by now to become one of the world's best. Put simply, he hasn't done that.
Three and a half years in test cricket (and almost five years in international cricket) should mean he's able to adapt to conditions and consistently take wickets. Yet still he belies his 142 international appearances by mindlessly banging the ball in short irregardless of match conditions, pitch conditions, or batsman weaknesses.
Broad was preferred in this game to Steven Finn - a bowler who does have a wonky radar, but bowls a hell of a lot of wicket taking balls. This afternoon (Day 2) at the Rose Bowl, Broad bowled nigh on every ball short of a length, and didn't even look close to taking a wicket. Broad isn't at all threatening with the short ball, which makes his tactics seem all the more odd. Broad appears to believe that just because he is a tall man, he has to bowl at the batsman's head and stare him down each time the batsman dare swipe at one. It's all becoming rather tedious.
If Broad wants a lesson on how a tall player can take test wickets, he should look down at the other end to see Chris Tremlett. Tremlett is a full two inches taller than the dwarf sized Broad, yet doesn't resort to attempting to break the batsman's face every ball. Instead, Tremlett bowls a full length in order to get the batsman coming forward, and takes wickets because he naturally gets extra bounce which is often all too good for the batsmen. Tremlett has only played 8 tests. It should be Broad who is showing Tremlett how it's done, not the other way around.
For three years, there wasn't a hint of Broad being dropped at all. However, if England are aiming for number one, they have to recognise when player's aren't pulling their weight, and act. That means that batsmen have to score runs, and bowlers have to take wickets. Broad just isn't taking enough wickets - he hasn't taken more than two in an innings since the tour of South Africa over 18 months ago - which quite simply is nowhere near good enough. There's no doubt that he can do it - the Ashes winning spell at the Oval in 2009 is testament to that. But those sorts of performances are becoming increasingly distant, and can England afford to have someone who isn't performing to the required level anywhere regularly enough? The key at the Oval was that Broad bowled full and attacked the stumps, with four of the five victims either being bowled or trapped lbw. If Broad returns to bowling that sort of length, he can be a very potent bowler, but he hasn't really done that since that heady day back in 2009.
Dropping Broad from the test team may seem odd when he starts his stint as an England captain next week, but it's not as if there's a shortage of test quality replacements available to come in. Finn, Bresnan, Shahzad, Onions and even Dernbach are all more than good enough and at the moment only loyalty is keeping Broad ahead of them. Broad's injury during the Ashes was unfortunate, but the fact that England won two games by an innings after he went home has proved that he is indeed a dispensible player. If England really do want to become the number one team in the world, they have to start by putting out a team of their best players. That means the batsmen who are to score the most runs, and bowlers who are going to take the most wickets. Quite simply, Stuart Broad does not take enough wickets to justify his place in the test team, and as harsh or ruthless as it may be, shouldn't be in the England test team
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