Stuart Broad believes a more attacking mindset was key to his much-improved performance at the MCG.
Broad claimed 4 for 51 from 28 overs – his best Test analysis since November 2016 – as Australia lost their final seven wickets for the addition of just 67 runs on the second day of the Melbourne Test. That followed the worst returns of his Test career in the previous game in Perth (0 for 142) as England suffered an innings defeat that guaranteed Australia regained the Ashes.
But while Broad admitted he bowled “very poorly” in the third Test at the WACA – and said he won’t hold grudges against some vocal critics of his performance – he felt that regaining some confidence and positivity was crucial to his improved display. And he credited Paul Collingwood, who is fulfilling the role of interim bowling coach at present, for his contribution to the recovery.
“I thought I bowled pretty well at Brisbane, okay at Adelaide, but very poorly in Perth,” Broad said. “I didn’t find a good rhythm and that probably showed. But I worked incredibly hard this week physically and mentally. I ran in hard in the nets trying to get the rhythm back.
“And I spent time with Paul Collingwood trying to look at my strengths. A bit of mental stuff. I’m a better bowler when I think attackingly but, on a very good pitch to bat on at the WACA, I fell into the trap of looking not to concede runs, instead of looking to take wickets.
“You need that wicket-taking mentality as a bowler. You need to think ‘Where is my next wicket coming?’ Not ‘How am I going to stop the next boundary?’ It’s a small mental change but quite a big thing for me as a cricketer and I’ve run in well here thinking about how I would get batsmen out.”
While Broad might have been forgiven for rounding on his critics after a week when many have questioned whether his career might be coming to an end, he instead accepted that such reactions come with the territory in international sport
“It’s been one of those weeks where you get your tin hat on, duck down, and don’t see much,” he said. “I’ve been unaware of what’s written and what’s been said. You can get yourself in a dark place if you read everything. It’s always been a strategy of mine to get away from things and not listen to too many exterior things. That’s the tactic I’ve gone with this week and Christmas helped because you get a little time away from it.
“You have to go to that place as a sportsman, find something within yourself, get support from people around you and build yourself back up. Things happen and change quickly in sport. I think people – journalists – just do their jobs and have to be critical at times. I won’t hold any grudges or get disappointed if people slag me off because in 15 years’ time I might be doing the same. Fifteen years; not six months.”
Broad was not the only veteran England player to enjoy a much improved day. Alastair Cook also bounced back after a disappointing tour, leaving Broad full of praise for his resilience and determination. But his words of praise for Cook could equally have been applied to himself.
“Every time you step on the field you are pretty much playing for your career,” Broad said. “That’s international cricket. You have to get your mindset right and make sure your work ethic is right. It shows a huge amount of character to be under that sort of scrutiny and pressure and come out and deliver any sort of performance, let alone a hundred like Cooky just has.
“I don’t think you play this much international sport without some kind of deep inner self-confidence that you can call on when you are very low. You have something there to clutch on to when things get tough. Both of us have put in strong performances over these two days.
“I’m a believer that cricket is swings and roundabouts. When it’s going for you, you have periods where things just happen: you get the umpire’s call, or slashes through the slips go straight to hand. Sometimes it doesn’t. I’m old enough and I’ve played enough to be relaxed about these things. All you can do as a top-flight sportsman is make sure your work ethic is good and you are looking to improve and that you are competitive.
“I wasn’t as competitive as I should have been in Perth. I wanted to improve that and we have been hugely competitive here.”