It’s no great industry secret to reveal that if a player is dropped and wants to get their side of the story across, their agent tends to do their bidding.

Whatever the sport, the two key elements are the information and the distance of said information. For instance, the greater the detail, the more obvious it came from a close source. Maybe even the player themselves. An agent or confidant offers the perfect buffer.

But when you are someone of great stature like, say, Stuart Broad, you do not need to pass off your dismay to those in the shadows. When you are as seasoned as he is – and that’s not just simply the 138 Test caps across 13 years – you know how to take charge of a narrative.

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

Before the start of day three, Broad gave an interview with Sky in their diary-room style booth that might rank as one of the great rejection speeches. “I’ve been frustrated, angry, gutted – because it’s quite a hard decision to understand.”

Here were 485 Test wickets, at a loss explain why he was sat in training kit blue while those in white were about to take to the field. His words resonated with all: cricket fans, other cricketers, and even the man who dropped him, Ben Stokes, who commended an “absolutely brilliant” interview while he, as stand-in captain, surveyed the damage of a four-wicket defeat to the West Indies in the opening Test.

This was, comfortably, Broad’s most impressive media showing to date. Better than when he strolled into the Gabba press room with the local paper, gunning for him that morning, rolled up under his arm having taken five wickets that day. Or when in 2018 he volunteered for media duties out in New Zealand while Australia’s sandpaper scandal was erupting in South Africa to question the assertion that it was the first time they had decided to tamper with the ball. Having achieved reverse swing throughout the recently completed 4-1 Ashes win, Broad wondered aloud “why they’ve changed their method for this one game?”

The circumstances around it are particularly informative. In any other situation, Sky would not be given access to any squad player during a Test. But as part of putting on these bio-secure matches this summer to satisfy their contract with the broadcaster, the ECB have granted the broadcaster in-play access as an extra.

A request was made to speak to Broad, something the player himself was keen on. After much deliberation by those higher up at the ECB, including director of cricket Ashley Giles, the green light was given. And when that red light came on, Broad did not disappoint. He was already a talking point going into the match and, now, was intrinsically one within it. As in other sports, cricketers are never better than when out of a side who are losing, and Broad was pretty good as it was.

As England fell four wickets short of victory on the final day, you wondered if things might have been different with a bowler who thrives on big moments. But even beyond day five’s events and his day three appearance, he was a clear presence throughout. Again, it is partly down to the nature of “the bubble” with players unable to leave and time in your room comes with a balcony view of the pitch. But if he was not walking around the boundary watching on intently, he was up on high tweeting about it.

Even in a normal world, Broad would have cast a long shadow over any match in his absence. That’s how it has been abroad and was always going to be as he missed a first home match in 51 Tests. Especially in a defeat that will now always be underscored as both the first after the coronavirus pandemic and the moment England began actively planning beyond Broad.

That, perhaps, is where the most important takeaway can be found. Now may not be the time to move beyond him, and the last week has shown just how difficult it will be to do that without the blessings of the man himself.

The talk around his and James Anderson’s future has been underpinned by a gentlemen’s agreement that they will bow out on their own terms. But while Anderson’s situation carries with it a sense of fanfare, Broad’s is one of reluctance.

It’s evident in the way they are talked about. Anderson, 38 later this year, is a story of evolution; Broad’s is one of improvement. Anderson is the craftsman, Broad the demolisher. Anderson gets rested. Broad gets dropped.

They will, in all likelihood, be reunited come Thursday at Old Trafford. As Nasser Hussain pointed out, England would not have made the same selection at the Ageas Bowl had it been the first Test of the Ashes, even if the XI was with a view to that very situation in Australia come the 2021/22 series opener at the Gabba.

One final thing to consider is Broad’s relationship with the England set-up which, even while remonstrating on the periphery, is as good as it ever has been. It has, though, added an extra sharp edge to his relationship with national selector Ed Smith. One which had its first bump on the tour of Sri Lanka in 2018 when Broad was omitted for the first two Tests and, to put it diplomatically, “relayed” his frustration to Smith. England, lest we forget, triumphed 3-0 in that series.

His own role extends beyond the field, a regular mentor to junior bowlers, even the one more senior one who admitted to losing a wise head at mid off. He is not the type to offer unsolicited advice, but is open to giving it as was the case a handful of occasions during this match. Few articulate the game’s technicals better than he does, which is why the tie-in with Sky this week felt was as much a nod to a longer term gig with him asking the questions once he does decide to hang up his boots.

Whenever that will be, it’s clear it won’t be silently. Nor should it be. A bowler whose demonic spells are as much a product of his world-beating skills as his sheer force of personality still as a few more left in him. And it’s clear not all of them will be with a ball in hand.

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