Stuart Broad is the fourth-highest wicket-taker among pace bowlers and the seventh-highest overall in Test cricket. Keeping an eye on the upcoming tour of Australia in 2021-22 and going for pace, the England team management dropped 34-year-old Broad for Mark Wood in the first Test in Southampton. Broad stated that he was frustrated and angry at his exclusion. In the 2nd Test against West Indies, Broad took 3/66 and 3/42 and proved his worth in the side as England won by 113 runs.
The objective of this article is to examine Broad’s position among other fast bowlers. Is he a genuine great bowler or one whose career merely lasted the distance? While it may seem preposterous to question the credentials of someone who has taken 491 wickets in a Test career spanning 139 Tests, a closer analysis may paint a different story. The table below shows Broad’s record in home, away and neutral venues.
Like most bowlers, he has a better record at home, but his away record is still nothing to be scoffed at. The conditions in Test cricket around the world can be classified into 3 different types. In Australia and South Africa, there is pace and bounce. In England and New Zealand, there is swing and seam movement. In Asia, the wickets are slow and there is not much help for the fast bowlers. The table below shows Broad’s record in these conditions.
His record in Asia is pretty mediocre, especially when compared to bowlers like Dale Steyn and Glenn McGrath, to name just a couple who have bowling averages of 24.11 and 23.02 respectively. Moreover, he has a bowling average in excess of 30 in South Africa, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh and an average in excess of 29 in Australia and West Indies.
Seventy-six bowlers have taken 200 or more Test wickets. Broad is 39th in terms of best bowling average among this elite list and 37th for best bowling strike-rate. Among fifty-four fast bowlers with 200 or more Test wickets, Broad has the 31st best average and the 32nd best strike-rate. While he is part of the pantheon, he is not a part of the top of the pile.
Broad’s bowling average in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th innings is 26.95, 29.37, 30.61 and 25.8 respectively. This indicates that he is consistent throughout and not just dependent on helpful conditions to take wickets. In the 63 Tests that England have been victorious when Broad has been a part of the side, he has taken 265 wickets at an average of 21.16 and a strike-rate of 44.8, which shows that he contributes heavily in wins, but in England’s victorious matches in Asia, he has taken just 8 wickets in 5 Tests at an exorbitant average of 53.62
Broad made his debut in December 2007 and was average in his first 20 Tests taking just 52 wickets at 40.21 with a strike-rate of 73.6. However, from his 21st Test starting on 7th August 2009 and culminating in his 93 Test starting on 27th May 2016, he took 291 wickets in these 73 Tests at 26.26 and a strike-rate of 52.9.
During this purple patch, he was the second-highest wicket-taker in the world after James Anderson. During this period, Dale Steyn captured 236 wickets at 21.69, striking every 44 deliveries, despite playing 24 fewer Tests in this period. During this 7-year period, Broad had the sixth-best average and the seventh-best strike-rate among the 20 bowlers who have 100 Test wickets.
While Broad was a prolific bowler who took a lot of wickets because England played a lot more Tests than most other countries, he wasn’t quite the best of his generation when you consider the two most important parameters by which you judge bowlers.
Broad and Anderson are definitely one of the all-time great fast bowling duos. Anderson has played 152 Tests out of which 116 have been with Broad as partner. In 36 Tests without Broad, Anderson has taken 116 wickets at 34.23, striking every 63 deliveries. However, in 116 Tests with Broad, Anderson has captured 471 wickets at an average of 25.05 and a strike-rate of 54.6. His average with Broad in the side is 36.64% better than when Broad is not in the playing XI and he needs 8 more deliveries to dismiss a batsman.
Broad’s poor record in Asia, along with his middling stats in comparison to other bowlers in the elite 200 Test wickets club, show that while he was very good when he was at his best, there are certain gaps in his resume.