JOHANNESBURG – Maybe it’s the GQ model looks, the galling ‘celebrappeals,’ or that time he nicked a ball to slip and didn’t walk … but something about Stuart Broad just doesn’t sit right.
And now he’s become only the seventh bowler to take 500 Test wickets, which is one heck of an achievement. It doesn’t mean we have to like him, but (grudgingly?) we have to respect him.
Broad is one of the best fast bowlers of the modern, post 2010 era.
His partnership with James Anderson – another member of the ‘500 club’ – has been instrumental in England’s success in the last decade.
That England are no longer fodder for Australia in The Ashes is largely down to the brilliance of that duo.
And while Anderson’s overall consistency is better, Broad has the ability to rip an opposing batting line-up to pieces in the blink of an eye.
In Durham in 2013, his second innings figures of 6/50 including a late spell in which he picked up four wickets in five overs – with Michael Clarke, Steve Smith and Brad Haddin among his victims – and won the match and series for his side.
His most famous Broad burst came at his home ground Trent Bridge two years later when the Australians were bowled out for 60, with Broad picking up 8/15.
There’s the famous hands-on-the-face look of astonishment when Ben Stokes takes a ripper at gully that stands out from that performance, although it did feel a bit ‘put on’ from Broad.
South Africa have been on the end of the Broad bursts too.
In the second innings of the 2009 Boxing Day Test in Durban, Jacques Kallis, AB de Villiers and JP Duminy were all ripped out as Broad rushed England to victory.
In 2016 at the Wanderers, Broad took 6/17 and was primarily responsible (along with some mesmerising catching from James Taylor) for South Africa being bowled out for 83.
Perhaps the best indication of just how good Broad is, is looking at the batsmen he dismissed. David Warner (12), Clarke (11), Ross Taylor (10), De Villiers (10), Smith (8) and Hashim Amla (8) are the batsmen he’s dismissed most.
It would be remiss not to point out what Broad does that rubs the opposition the wrong way. He reviews every time – whether batting or bowling, even when he must know he’s wrong – and at one point he earned the nickname ‘L’Oreal,’ because, you know, he’s ‘worth it’.
The Australians never forgave him for nicking one to slip at Trent Bridge in that 2013 Test and when England toured Australia later that year, Broad was a focal point of Australian fury.
He was also a central figure in the England ‘clique’ which Kevin Pietersen blamed for creating a poisonous atmosphere in the dressing-room and saw Pietersen axed from the Lord’s Test against South Africa in 2012.
And while there were plenty of congratulatory messages for Broad when he reached the landmark on Tuesday, Pietersen, usually very vocal on social media, was notably quiet (maybe he sent him a whatsapp).
Broad is one of the best, and he’s clearly loved by most of his teammates and the England fans. For the rest of the world, he’s a pantomime villain – and you sense he likes it that way.