What a Nut Case or Tilting at Windmills

What a nut case

Mrs Broad did a great job bringing up Stuart. The cricketing nation owes her a debt of gratitude. He is one of life’s great optimists. Every ball will take a wicket, every spell will be one that changes the course of a Test match. Every appeal for LBW is out (except every appeal when he is batting). Every ball he receives as a batsman will be stroked to the boundary. Every innings will produce a century.

There is more than a little of the Don Quixote about Stuart, though with a lot better eyesight.

Some have even compared his batting to that of Gary Sobers, though TM has struggled in vain to see any resemblance. Confidence is infectious. But it can carry the day.

Last winter, Stuart’s hubristic nature encountered its Nemisis (to mix metaphorical allusions). Mitchell Johnson inevitably exposed Stuart to harsh reality. He (and what was worse the world) suddenly saw Stuart’s vulnerability to the short stuff. This series against India has repeatedly illustrated his awkwardness when trying to cope with the rising ball aimed at his throat. TM has squirmed when watching his paralysis; unable even to duck, it seemed.

Now this is a crisis for someone like Stuart; as indeed it was in a different way for Jonathan Trott. Trott reached deep into his mind and came up with a tactic of moving to the off side of the ball and endeavouring to ‘pick’ up the ball and send it over the boundary. It looked desperate. It was desperate.

Stuart, perhaps delving less deeply into his psyche, or having a less deep psychic pool than Jonathan Trott, obviously came back to the surface with a more orthodox though no less desperate idea: that he needed to hook the short stuff and give a lie to this inconvenient alternative universe that was so persistently intruding upon his world view.

One can imagine how Stuart saw the ball sailing ten rows back into the stand.

“I will do it.”

He did it. The shape of the shot was perfect. The timing just a fraction off as any less confident cricketer might have predicted before rejecting the idea.

And a less confident cricketer embarking on such a risky venture might have double checked the gap between visor and helmet. But not Stuart.

The question arises as to whether Stuart would have risked all this in the days before helmets. There is reason to suggest others would not. But there again … in Stuart’s world probably he would.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “What a Nut Case or Tilting at Windmills

  1. growltiger

    Not sure what sort of checking would have revealed the gap in the helmet, TM. Do you think Stuart should personally have subjected the helmet to impact testing? Seems unlikely that the ball would simply have passed through the gap unless accelerated to 80mph or so. Incidentally, this is not the first helmet failure in recent weeks, as Craig Kieswetter (a more considerable batsman) had the same problem and suffered a worse injury. There should be a review of whether these helmets are up to the job. But not Stuart’s job to conduct it.

  2. It’s a gap GT. Carrying helmets by the grill can/will lead to the gap widening. It needs to be checked. But note that the grill for a fielding helmet has an upper bar that batting grills lack. Perhaps the gap in a ‘2001 – A Space Odessey’ helmet used by Broad is more difficult to guage.

  3. There seems little doubt that helmets are encouraging batters to go beyond their competence levels. Even batsmen of the competence of Richie Benaud or Colin Cowdrey occasionally got hit when trying to hook bouncers but it was actually quite rare to be hit: batsmen seemed more able to take evasive action. These days, it seems that more and more batsmen are getting hit – eg Joe Root. In turn, you have to question the Indian selection strategy. Why has it taken so long for them to pick Aaron and Ashwin? Aaron looks twice the bowler that Pankaj Singh is and about 3 times the bowler that Stuart Binny is. Fletcher used to be obsessed by pace when he was coaching England. Have his views changed? If Aaron had played at Southampton, I am sure that Cook would not have made his career-saving, “steely” runs and the media would have been forced to end their bizarre love affair with him. Look how easily he dispatched Cook at Old Trafford – one bouncer was enough to induce a very poor shot.

    As for Broad, he is never been a thinking cricketer has he! You can always rely on him to play a brainless shot. And playing with a knee injury is one way of shortening your career or ruining your action.

    • growltiger

      It was always rare to be hit. Batsmen who watched the ball scarcely ever took one, except in one circumstance.

      The injuries seem to come from a configuration that existed in the days before helmets and hasn’t really changed. That is when a batsman is prepared to keep his eye on the ball and risk taking on the hook. I saw a horrific case of a batsman in prime form (and a good player of short-pitched stuff) top edge the ball into his eye at Lord’s in 1964. That was Mickey Stewart (Alec’s father). He was, arguably, never quite the same player again.

      The case of Stuart Broad was similar, he shaped up to the third ball and kept his eye on it, but it was that bit quicker and it took the edge. I don’t see this as brainless – he had just succeeded with it twice (and, unlike Botham in 1981, with his eyes open). Given the claims for the specific design of helmet, it was not unreasonable to expect protection in the event of error (and some say that is exactly what he got from it).

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