STUART BROAD: I can't wait to take on Sri Lanka

STUART BROAD: I can’t wait to take on Sri Lanka in what will be challenging conditions in the heat… but good golly, I already miss Mollie after getting engaged at the start of the year!

  • Stuart Broad started 2021 proposing to girlfriend Mollie King on New Year’s Day
  • Now the seam bowler is straight away heading on tour with England in Sri Lanka
  • The 34-year-old admits conditions will be tough in the humid heat of the country
  • Broad also states he will miss the Barmy Army fanbase not being at games 

The year opened in pretty exciting circumstances for me: getting engaged and departing for an England tour in the space of 24 hours.

I was planning to propose to Mollie around Christmas but with the Tier Four restrictions in place it wasn’t easy, so it felt like the most appropriate timing would be to wait until 2020 was done and to start the new year positively.

I popped the question on an early-morning New Year’s Day walk on Richmond Hill, meaning one of our favourite views in the world — the British countryside and River Thames — provided the backdrop. It was such a special moment.

Stuart Broad is already missing his girlfriend Mollie King having gone on tour with England

The pair got engaged on New Year’s Day following a walk on Richmond Hill in London

Unfortunately, I am now away for 10 weeks but that’s the life of a cricketer and Mollie is brilliant in understanding this. She’s busy with her own career, we both really enjoy working and she realises being abroad is part and parcel of my job.

In normal times, we might be able to hook up during periods in which families can join tours but in these times of coronavirus restrictions and cricket bubbles that’s just not possible.

Of course, we are all desperate for some normality and for me that means playing matches in front of fans again. That might be the most quoted sentence of the past nine months but this year finishes with an Ashes tour and it won’t truly feel like one unless we have the Barmy Army there.

That’s at the end of what is a pretty saturated schedule of 17 Test matches, starting with this series in Sri Lanka.

We have been here for a week and the environment they have created for us feels really safe. It’s pretty much what we were doing in the UK last summer in terms of bio- security, but with blue sky overhead. Without wishing to speak too soon, to bring one case of Covid with us and for that not to have spread is a huge pat on the back for the protocols that have been set by the medical staff.

Broad is now focused on helping England get 2021 off to a winning start in Sri Lanka

The big challenge for us now is to manage the fitness of the squad in challenging conditions.

Mickey Arthur, the Sri Lanka coach, spoke about the number of injuries suffered by bowlers during their series in South Africa and by India’s in Australia.

Unfortunately, injuries are inevitable when the build-up to series is much shorter. The rate at which bowlers break down goes through the roof. With this in mind, it might be reasonable for all us fast bowlers to look at playing two out of the six Test matches here and in India over the next couple of months and share the workload around.

Of course, we want to win these Test matches but our top priority is to board a plane to Australia in November with an armoury of fast bowlers fit and ready to go and avoiding injuries when we are at our most susceptible will be key.

Friday’s intra-squad practice was my first day in the field since the beginning of August. If you have ever played sport or lifted weights in the gym after a lay-off you will know how I felt. You pull up the next day a bit sore and stiff.

The 34-year-old admits getting back to fitness ahead of the tour has been tough

We had the best preparation possible for this tour and I managed to bowl 20 to 25 overs a week in the tent at Loughborough. 

But it’s very hard to replicate the intensity of a Test match and we know from the data produced by our analysts that our numbers go through the roof in World Cups and Ashes series — that’s something to do with the pressure and the adrenaline. It shows that your body comes under much more stress in competitive action than it does in training.

It would be naive not to expect injuries in the circumstances but we will try to do everything we can to prevent them. That will mean looking after ourselves as much as possible and we are currently heavily focused on nutrition.

In an away Ashes series, a seamer will average 41 overs per Test, win, lose or draw and part of the preparation will be what we eat.

In these bubbles, all the food is looked after by our nutritionist Emma. It’s extremely healthy but the rule is: eat as much as you can.

That takes some doing when you’re eating lunch in temperatures of 41 degrees and I must admit that I felt a bit slow in the afternoon when I went back out to field the other day — a sign that my body was still getting used to my attempts to fully energise it.

Broad is expecting a few injuries to emerge in the England squad during their winter tour 

The simple way of looking at it is that we are trying to give our bodies as much fuel to run further and cope with greater demands.

The fact that the practice pitch in Hambantota was a bit green was no real surprise to us. The nets nibbled more than Headingley on a cloudy day too.

Of course, that’s exactly the opposite of what we expect the pitch will play like in Galle this week. You only have to look at Rangana Herath’s record at the ground to see how responsive the pitch can be to spin.

That’s not a whinge. I accept that’s the game and Sri Lanka, as the home team, have a right to produce conditions that favour them.

Our job is to adapt to what is presented and if it looks like we need to play three spinners plus a pace bowler able to hit 90 miles per hour or offer a left-arm angle then we’ve got to be brave enough to do it.

It might mean six seamers carrying drinks but we have to get into the frame of mind to play cricket in this part of the world.

Captain Joe Root (above) is set to prefer a spin attack against Sri Lanka due to the pitch conditions and Broad accepts he may have to give way in the side as a seam bowler

Certainly, if Joe Root tells me on Wednesday evening that I am not playing that will be no issue for me.

Of course, professional pride means you want to play every game but you have to apply cricket logic when thinking about selection.

Yes, I was upset last summer when I was left out for the first Test. I believed the shirt was mine in those conditions and I was bowling well. Not being selected here though wouldn’t mean not being selected for the pink-ball Test against India in Ahmedabad at the end of next month.

What I do know though is that I will be completely on top of my game when I next walk onto that field in an England shirt.

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