EX-England captain Andrew Flintoff cannot understand the controversy that has engulfed Stuart Broad, but has backed him to shine in the forthcoming Ashes series Down Under.
Broad has been under fire ever since he stood his ground despite clearly edging an Ashton Agar delivery that was caught at first slip in the first Test between England and Australia at Trent Bridge in July. His refusal to walk led to accusations of “blatant cheating” from Australia coach Darren Lehmann, who also called on the Australian public to “get stuck into him” this winter – comments that earned the 43-year-old a fine for breaching the International Cricket Council’s code of conduct.
The matter was brought back into focus on Monday when Broad insisted he had no regrets, believing England may have lost a Test they won by 14 runs had he walked off.
Two-times Ashes winner Flintoff said he would have criticised the Nottinghamshire man if he accepted he was out before waiting for the umpire’s decision.
“I can’t believe that people have got on their high horses about it, players, ex-players, everyone. It happens every day in county cricket, every day in professional cricket,” said Flintoff. “What are you going to do if a bowler got an lbw decision and it wasn’t out? Are you going to call him back? It’s part and parcel of the game. If I’d have been in the dressing room and Stuart Broad had walked and the umpire hadn’t given him out, I’d have had a right go at him.”
Broad is likely to be public enemy No 1 when the Ashes gets under way at Brisbane on 21 November. But, with Australia champing at the bit to avenge a 3-0 series defeat in England, Flintoff has backed Broad to silence the doubters.
Flintoff believes the 27-year-old is now finding his groove – pointing to a match-winning spell of six for 50 in the fourth Test at Chester-le-Street – by playing to his strengths.
Flintoff, who scored 3845 runs and took 226 wickets in 79 Tests, said: “In the past few months in his bowling, he’s figured out a way in which balls suit him.
“He bowls nicely at mid-80s and can swing it, that’s his strength, stick to it. In the past he’s tried to bowl quick and he’s tried other things, but we’ve seen in the summer, like at Chester-le-Street, he bowled to his strengths. Don’t get carried away, don’t try to beat the crowd, don’t try to beat the press and don’t get dragged into a slanging match with the opposition.
“The best way to shut them up is when they’re walking back with no runs under their belts.”
Broad and England captain Alastair Cook sat out a practice session with sore backs yesterday as the tourists’ preparations continued. Cook’s absence is not likely to cast doubt on his participation in the series, according to fellow batsman Ian Bell.
Cook and Broad skipped England’s session at the Floreat Oval in Western Australia to receive treatment as England trained ahead of their opening three-day game against a Western Australia Chairman’s XI at the WACA later this week.
The captain’s omission, in particular, drew plenty of interest from the gathered media but Bell insisted it was nothing serious. “I’m sure he’ll be fine,” Bell said. “He’s had the odd little niggle with the back. I suppose we all have certain areas we have to keep working on. Obviously, a long flight isn’t always easy. I’m sure he’ll be right in the next week or so.”
Bell also backed Broad to overcome whatever abuse he receives from Australian fans.
Meanwhile, Australia captain Michael Clarke says Ricky Ponting will have to make the first move in order to settle the feud sparked by comments the former skipper made in his autobiography. The pair have not spoken since Ponting criticised Clarke’s performance as vice-captain as well as his former relationship with model Lara Bingle in his recently released book, At the Close of Play.
“I’ve said what I had to say on that issue,” Clarke, who is hopeful of making his return from a back injury for New South Wales today, said when quizzed on Ponting’s remarks.
“For me, it’s about preparing for tomorrow’s game [against Tasmania] and looking forward to a huge game.
“I’m very focused on cricket and I certainly won’t let anything take my mind off that. Ricky has my number and we’ve spoken for the last 15 years so I don’t think anything will change. I’m very focused on what’s in front of me and making sure I’m as well prepared as I can be for this first Sheffield Shield game and then obviously a huge [Australian] summer ahead.”