Stuart Broad was an easy bowler to captain. Right from the beginning as a young kid he would want to set this own fields, do things his own way and I loved that in a young cricketer.
He was raw but I always felt he would be something special. He liked talking cricket and studied bowling. He was constantly trying to learn about his art.
In New Zealand in 2008 we gave him the opportunity to forge a Test career. The reign of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard had come to an end. They had lost their consistency and zip. The team needed a change of dynamic. We perhaps left it a little bit late to make the change.
We stayed true to Harmison and Hoggard for the first Test of the series in Hamilton to see if they could come back. That was based on what they had done for me in the past. But as soon as we lost that game we had to go with the two younger bowlers and dropped Harmison and Hoggard for Broad and James Anderson. We told them this was their chance and to make sure they became the new Harmy and Hoggy.
Broad was raw and some laughed when I predicted in 2009 he could be as good as Glenn McGrath. But even as a young bowler he could bowl with the same pace and skill level of McGrath. He has not found the consistency of McGrath but at 29 he still has some of his best years left ahead him and could still improve.
His greatest attribute is that he can cope with the big moment. In English sport we do not produce many sportsmen who can thrive under pressure. But Broad just loves the big stage and pressure. I guarantee if there had only been 8,000 or so at the Wanderers on Saturday he may not have produced that spell.
But when he sensed the atmosphere with the Test in the balance he rose to the moment. He has that inner strength few sportsmen are blessed with.
Players like that are excited by the challenge. There are two ways of looking at pressure. There is the negative mindset of worrying you might fail and could make a mistake in front of thousands of people. You could cost the team the game. But Broad looks at the positive. He sees the crowd and it drives him on to win the match and be a hero.
The South Africans were singing all sorts of songs about him but he used that as motivation to shut them up, like he did in Brisbane in 2013-14 when 40,000 were booing him and the local paper deleted his name from the scorecards and blanked out his photo. He thrives on that competitive edge.
For a period in his career he bowled a little too short trying to live up to being the team’s ‘enforcer’. He bowled too quick and lost his action, which meant he was then not moving the ball laterally. But he learnt eventually just to bowl in the channel outside off stump, pitch it up fuller and has not looked back.
From being around him off the field I know he is very meticulous in the way he approaches life. He knows how he wants it to pan out, when he wants to finish his career and what he wants to do after cricket. He has probably put a number on the amount of wickets he would like to take and the Test appearances.
He has 330 wickets now. I believe he can go past Anderson. He should use what Jimmy finishes with as a target to beat.
When Broad and Anderson retire England have to make sure they are not lost to the game. Look at Bob Willis. He is great on television but I don’t think he gave back to the game when he retired. That is not Bob’s fault. I just think he was allowed to drift away. But Jimmy and Broad should remain involved in some way so the next generation can pick their brains.
I think he will be able to cope fine with the attention he receives after this latest matchwinning burst. He has been made humble by the times in the past when he struggled. He has been dropped, injured and had people questioning whether he should be in the team. But he now fully deserves to be ranked No1 in the world.
On Saturday his first wicket, Dean Elgar, was crucial. Broad just found his mojo and rhythm from that moment. The pitch was in his favour. Some bowlers freeze and panic when they realise the pressure is on them. But when Broad and McGrath find a pitch in their favour they will not let the opposition survive. Every ball is made to matter.
Broad was not feeling well on the first morning of the match but England generally as a bowling unit did not run in with enough aggression. They floated the ball down expecting the pitch to do the work. It is a lesson to all young bowlers. Even when conditions are in your favour you still have to hit the pitch hard and work for your reward.
But in South Africa’s second innings the pitch offered bounce, swing and seam. That is when you have to be able to read the game situation, and take your moment. Broad did just that.