The Evening Standard

There are few lives that can have changed so dramatically in a matter of a few minutes as Stuart Broad’s. Rewind to the Sunday of the Oval Test against Australia. Set an improbable 546 to win, the Australians, led by Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, are making a fight of it.

Broad is back in the pavilion for treatment to a minor injury when he hears a huge roar: Andrew Flintoff has run out Ponting. Then as he waits to get on the field there is another shout: an appeal against Michael Clarke for a run-out. Broad sprints on to the field screaming, “It’s out, it’s out!”

But the TV umpire takes a long time to decide. The crowd gets restless and Broad’s team-mates start berating him. Finally the all-rounder is proved right. And, with two of the main rival batsmen dismissed, his fears of an Aussie victory vanish. His life will never be the same again.

The moment the last Australian wicket is taken and Broad is named man of the match, Roddy Bloomfield of publisher Hodder & Stoughton, contacted Broad’s agent Craig Sackfield. A star is born and Bloomfield wants Broad to tell his story of the Ashes triumph.

Two days later Broad is on the Jonathan Ross show bowling to TV chef Jamie Oliver and his hero Ricky Gervais, whose picture hangs on his bedroom wall. The media have already dubbed him Golden Bowls, the David Beckham of cricket, and one expert predicts he could earn as much as £12million a year.

Broad, 23, is well aware that things could have turned out differently. “Even if I had taken five wickets (five for 37 in the first innings) and we had lost the Oval Test, I wouldn’t be in this position. People like to read about teams who have done well.”

Indeed, the day before the Ashes finale, Broad was not sure he would even be picked. His relief when captain Andrew Strauss read out his name was such that he and his girlfriend, the former Grange Hill actress Kacey Barnfield, decided to go shopping to celebrate.

Right through the Oval Test Broad had a ready measure of how success changes lives.

The day after his first- innings haul he received 75 text messages. His phone had never been busier. And, as he arrived at the Oval, a fan asked him to give him an autograph.

Suddenly Broad realised he was holding out the front page of the newspaper, not the sports pages. Since then, Broad has acquired the aura that goes with being cricket’s new superstar. His publisher has rushed out his book in a record two months and we meet in a room in Hodder’s office. He has the dress sense to go with his cool looks and you get the impression that fame will sit comfortably with this young man.

His agent sits round the corner. Every now and then when a question is considered a bit too tricky, Broad looks across at Craig. Not that he has too many occasions to bring Broad back in line. He is already “on message” to emphasise that he knows all about instant success not necessarily leading to lasting fame.

When I ask him about his new- found glamour status he laughs and insists: “It is certainly nice to be talked about but that is really for other people to say.”

And what about his girlfriend’s acting career? They met earlier this year in a bar when he was out with friends. He had previously dated Laura Coleman, a Miss England winner. “Kacey is filming at the moment (Resident Evil: Afterlife in Toronto). That is her chosen career, she enjoys doing that and it is not the reason we are together,” he added.

The comparison with Beckham is obvious and Broad confesses: “I am a massive fan. For me, making my way in sport, he is the role model.”

Broad feels certain he will be able to handle life in the spotlight because of the foundation his parents have given him. Although his father, Chris, the former Test player and mother, Carole, are divorced, they remain friends. At the Oval his mother and stepfather watched his heroics. As he took the fifth Aussie wicket, he held up the ball for his mother to see.

He says: “I spent a lot of time with my mum, she looks after me.”

Brought up in Rutland with his mother, he is a country boy at heart: “I couldn’t live in inner city London, I need fields and nice views.”

He emphasises his desire to keep his feet on the ground by explaining his penchant for reading war books. He has just read ‘3 Para’ and, on the South African tour, plans to read autobiographies of British soldiers who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq. It will, he says, remind him that, whatever the problems on a cricket tour, they pale in comparison with what our troops abroad face.

“If we are in a dodgy hotel, I can read these books and think these lads have to sleep on the floor with rocket-propelled grenades for four months,” he says. Yes, he agrees, his new status will mean more money but, “Money does not change your goal. When you pull on that shirt, you have a job to take wickets and score runs for your country and help them win.”

Earlier in the year, Broad had turned down the Indian Premier League, a rich magnet which attracted both Freddie Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen because “I wanted to play in an Ashes series, a victorious one”.

Now he can hardly conceal his delight, having won the Ashes. Not that Broad is openly critical of any of his colleagues and even refuses to be drawn on the merits of Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar.

No sooner has he said how much Swann shutting up one end at the Oval helped him bowl wicket-taking balls at the other end than he rushes to reassure me that Panesar, who did not make the South Africa tour “is a fantastic spin bowler”.

The failure of British Asian hopefuls like Monty, Ravi Bopara and Owais Shah this summer has generated much comment with the editor of Wisden, Scyld Berry, even suggesting that cosy Asian family life may not breed winners. When I mention this to Broad, he and his agent fall silent. Whether he has not thought about it, or it is not an area he wants to readily explore, is not clear. He just repeats: “Monty is a fantastic bowler.”

However, when it comes to his own performances, Broad is no shrinking violet. So the 23-year-old tells me that he was picked for England because: “In my first season [for Leicestershire] I was the best bowler in England in Twenty20 cricket going at four an over. That was unheard of.”

He sees himself as an all-rounder batting No8 for England and reminds me that his average of around 30 puts him in the class of greats like Shaun Pollock and Wasim Akram, both of whom batted at the same position.

“That is certainly where you’ve got to aim for,” he added.

And while Broad respects Flintoff, he has never wanted to emulate him. “Not at all, I am very different to Freddie in most ways. He was very much a batter who did not really bowl.”

Broad has already taken as many five-wicket hauls in an innings (three), always the mark of good bowling, as Flintoff did in his entire career.

His self-belief really comes through when I ask him about Yuvraj Singh hitting him for six sixes in an over during the 2007 Twenty20 World Cup.

Yuvraj, he rationalises, was helped by the fact that Broad was bowling into quite a strong wind. “He just had to get it up in the air and it would be going.” The wider lesson Broad learnt was “Don’t ever bowl two balls the same in one-day cricket”.

Two years later that unpredictability has helped him to become the fourth best one-day bowler in the world.

Broad would like Twenty20 cricket and Tests balanced with a schedule that does not burn out players. His personal ambition is to play 100 Tests, be the leading wicket taker in one-day international cricket and for England to win an ICC event, something they have never done, preferably the 50-over World Cup.

He would also love to win the Ashes in Australia but is keen to emphasise that the 2009 win was not “the be all and end all. Winning the Ashes is only a stepping stone to being the best team in the world.” And that means “going to South Africa and winning”.

Broad accepts it will be a tough tour. He is confident that England are beginning to perform more consistently. They now have a core group of players in Strauss, Alastair Cook, Swann and Matt Prior who can fashion a win in South Africa.

But the tour poses problems, not least in the shape of captain Graeme Smith. “Smith is a charismatic player, dangerous and awkward to bowl to. He hits the ball in different areas. A bit like KP, he leads you into bowling straight at him but that is one of his big strengths. They also have a phenomenal fast-bowling attack. And Dale Steyn is the best bowler in the world.”

However, Broad is sure England will win the series by a 2-1 scoreline, with victories coming at the Wanderers and at Cape Town. And the loss?

Realising that, for England’s pin-up bowler to speculate the ground where England might lose is a tricky prospect, he pauses and says: “Oh, let’s say we will win 2-0!”

* Bowled over by Stuart Broad – Hodder & Stoughton £18.99


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