Broadly Speaking

Published: 2023
Pages: 317
Author: Broad, Stuart
Publisher: Hodder and Stoughton
Rating: 3 stars

Stuart Broad made his England debut back in 2006. I can’t really articulate why, but I didn’t like the young Broad very much. But he slowly won me round, and by the time he retired after that magnificent Test at the Oval last summer he was undoubtedly my favourite England player, and had been for some time.

It is easier to understand what brought about the change. Eight five-fers in the Ashes, and that unforgettable 8-15 at Trent Bridge in 2015 obviously helped, but there was more to it than that. Broad was as combative a cricketer as I’ve seen, yet there was always a sense of humour lurking, and the way he conducted himself at the crease after Jonny Bairstow’s controversial stumping at Lord’s last summer was pure theatre.

So I have to declare a bias in favour of Broad who, in addition to all he achieved in that long playing career has, with his early forays into the media, suggested that his performances behind a microphone will be just as impressive as those with ball in hand.

But will his autobiography be worth reading? Books by current players and the recently retired can be disappointing but, given Broad’s personality, I thought this one might be different. In one sense it is, because it is a decent read that is very well written by a ghost, Richard Gibson, who has certainly captured his man’s voice very well. Ultimately however it is impossible not to conclude that there is a good deal that remains unsaid.

An initial point that has to be made is that the book is not a conventional autobiography, in the sense that much of it is concerned with last summer’s Ashes series. The main chapters alternate between those that tell Broad’s story in the traditional way that autobiographies do, and those that describe each of those five remarkable Test matches.

For a man whose life has been looked at pretty closely by the press I found a good deal in Broad’s story I hadn’t previously been aware of. I hadn’t, for example, realised that he was born prematurely with a serious lung problem, and although I do recollect reading about them I hadn’t fully appreciated some of the personal issues that cropped up within his family over the years.

How far should an autobiography go when it comes to what are, essentially, personal matters? The answer seems to be changing as time moves on, the modern cricketer’s autobiography not infrequently being uncomfortably frank in the details it sets out. All in all however I feel Broad and Gibson strike the right balance. I am sure there must be more to some of the issues they write about, but nothing that need be in the public domain.

One of the most, in many ways, admirable qualities that Broad has is his belief in ‘the team’ both in a literal sense and, more generally, the game and its players as a whole. As a consequence of this there is much praise lavished on others, and not a great deal by way of criticism so much so that I cannot imagine that anyone, even opponents, are going to feel aggrieved at anything written about them.

There is some of what you’d expect, Broad expressing his ‘disappointment’ at Pat Cummins failure to withdraw the Bairstow appeal being an example, but at the same time he has a good deal that is positive to say about the Australian captain. On the other hand, and in itself this observation isn’t intended as a criticism, anyone wanting Broad’s take on the dressing room ‘turbulence’ that Kevin Pietersen caused is going to be disappointed.

Where Broad is prepared to be more robust is in relation to the game’s coaches and administrators. In particular he was clearly a great deal unhappier than I thought he would have been as a result of his and Jimmy Anderson’s omission from the squad that toured the Caribbean in 2021/22.

So there are subjects on which, in Broadly Speaking at least, Broad has held back, although he may well plan to revisit them in the future. All in all though his book is a decent read, and an enjoyable record of one of the most enthralling Test series of my lifetime. As always an index would improve it, and the rudimentary statistical appendix is next to useless, but a trawl through the family album means there is a decent selection of illustrations.


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