EXCLUSIVE: From Melton Mowbray to the furnace of Colombo… Broad goes back to his roots
23:41 GMT, 20 March 2012
Stuart Broad may be an England captain these days, but there seems little chance that he will forget his roots. Egerton Park CC, in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, is the club he still calls home.
It's where he learned the value of grinding it out for a draw, of getting side on to bowl the away-swinger – and of hitting the ball into the River Eye to get rid of the shine. It's where he learned patience, aggression and cunning.
And it's where, even now, club regulars regard him as one of their own: the local lad whose enthusiasm caught the eye of the Under 11s coach Lennie Hunter and went on to become a linchpin of the Test attack and England's Twenty20 captain.
Back home: Broad at Egerton Park CC, where he started his cricket career
Melton Mowbray, it turns out, really does deserve to be known for more than its pork pies and Stilton.
'The thing I remember from Egerton Park was you always had a beer with the opposition – win, lose or draw,' says Broad, who took three wickets in Colombo on Tuesday against a Sri Lanka Cricket Development XI and is confident of shaking off an ankle niggle in time for Monday's first Test in Galle.
'The youngsters, such as myself, would be sent out to pick up the boundary flags and lock up the scoreboard while the adults would get a few drinks in.
'Once we'd come back, the bar would be full of lads in their whites talking about cricket. It was invaluable.'
Broad was not always the splice-jarring fast bowler who, in his last two Test series – against India and Pakistan – took 38 wickets at 16. He started as a bowler of gentle away-swingers and compiler of steady 30s and 40s. Then, in his mid-to-late teens, came the growth spurt that changed his life.
Iain Lees, who first kept wicket to Broad when he was 12, recalls: 'To be honest we've had stronger 2nd XI sides over the years and he wouldn't have got in. He helped make up the numbers in those days. Then he grew…
Family ties: Stuart's dad, Chris, watches his son play in a match at Egerton Park (and below)
'He came back one summer and he must have shot up from being about 5ft 7in to over 6ft.
'Progressively in that first over, with the ball whizzing by, I was forced to stand further and further back. Not long after that, he moved into the first team, and then Leicestershire came knocking.'
If Broad's bowling would eventually come naturally to him, batting was a different matter.
He says: 'I was one of these dogged openers who couldn't hit the ball off the square. But playing adult cricket as a teenager is quite a valuable lesson.
'They'd be grinding it out for 40 or 50 overs to save the game, not giving it away and they'd be furious if they did. And you always had opposition who would see a young cricketer, and they'd try to throw their weight around. That really helps you develop as a character.
'I'd get nice fifties off 30 overs, but I never kicked on. Then one Saturday, I scored my first hundred. I was about 16, which was quite late. I got another one on Sunday, and two more the following weekend.
Young hopeful: The 15-year-old Broad Broad (above) and making an appearance in the paper (below)
'In between, I got 190 for Leicester Under 17s, so that was five hundreds in eight days. It was the breakthrough I needed.'
Then there was the sense of camaraderie, an all-for-one atmosphere in which prima donnas would not have been tolerated.
John Bailey, the former Egerton Park chairman, says: 'Even now, the fact that this lad with the baby face is the captain of England – well, it doesn't mean anything. He's just Stuart. He's the same: he hasn't changed.'
Broad agrees. 'The England team is very similar to my experience of club cricket. It's not a lease car – it's very much our team: we drive it our way. We still enjoy a beer if we've had a good victory. We still have the dressing-room banter.'
Not surprisingly, Broad is still the talk of the town.
In the wickets: Broad took three scalps against a Sri Lankan Development XI on day one in Colombo
'We're all avid supporters of him,' says Nick Newman, who captained Broad in two first XI games.
'When he plays for England, we're all at each other's houses or watching at home and we text each other afterwards and say, “There's our lad”.
'It's such a buzz for the club to have an international cricketer who does recognise his roots.'