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Broad at Uluru

Is Broad REALLY a 's--t' bloke?

How the panto villain won Australia over

It’s a long-standing Australian tradition to bestow the dubious honour of pantomime villain on one (un)lucky touring player.

From the time Douglas Jardine chose to try out fast-leg theory bowling tactics on national treasure Don Bradman, Australian crowds have happily singled out a visiting player for a special verbal welcome.

Tony Greig donned a helmet and revelled in the role of dastardly villain as he defied the crowds and Dennis Lillee’s chin music during World Series Cricket, Viv Richards simply chewed gum and looked cool as the jibes slid right on by, while Ian Botham returned fire by firing with bat or ball, often both.

In more recent times the fans had Arjuna Ranatunga, Harbahjan Singh and a bat-waving Javed Miandad to ignite a special welcome to the crease or signify the start of a bowling spell.

And Kevin Pietersen was the man they loved to hate in 2010-11.

But it’s hard to remember such a concerted campaign as this summer’s targeting of Stuart Broad.

The seeds were sown at Trent Bridge, when a wide-eyed Broad stood his ground professing his innocence after a nick only Stevie Wonder, and Aleem Dar as it turned out, could have missed.

He also seemed to have missed out on those kindergarten lessons where they teach children how to tie up their shoelaces.

So by the time Broad landed in Brisbane the locals were ready and waiting.

The yellow T-shirts had been printed – in six different sizes, no less – and could also be purchased in an on-trend singlet style, along with matching stubby-holders.

And who could argue with the message, blazoned across the front?

Yeah, that Stuart Broad is a 's--t' bloke.

A Facebook page of the same name appeared (now with almost 70,000 followers), along with a twitter account and the hashtag #SBIASB.

The local paper upped the ante in spectacular fashion, instigating a “Broad Ban” in which they removed his image from photos and refused to use his name, instead filling match reports and scorecards with references to the “27-year-old medium-pace bowler”, or 27YOMP for short.

It was as if the Englishman was actually the evil Lord Voldermort of He Who Must Not Be Named Harry Potter fame – ridiculous, really, when the evidence of all the memes on social media revealed Broad was clearly Draco Malfoy in cricket whites.

And how did he respond?

By throwing a tantrum, losing his mettle, or casting evil spells at small children and puppies?

Not quite.

He strode onto the Gabba and promptly took 5-65 before strolling into a press conference wearing a cheeky grin and carrying a copy of the offending newspaper under his arm.

It was unexpectedly, annoyingly, frustratingly … likeable.

To make things worse, so were his comments on the “Stuart Broad is a w***er” chants offered up by the crowd.

“I’m pleased my mum wasn’t in the stadium,” he said. “But to be honest I was singing along at one stage, it gets in your head and you find yourself whistling it at the end of your mark.

 

"I’d braced myself to expect it and actually it was good fun, I actually quite enjoyed it.

“There’s something about Ashes cricket that brings the best out of me, there’s a little bit more niggle playing against the Aussies.”

So he cares about his mum AND could take the barbs of thousands of baying fans on the chin and still smile?

One can’t imagine Mitchell Johnson whistling the famous Barmy Army ditty at the top of his mark and calling it “good fun”.

As the tour continued so did Broad’s good humour and resilience in the face of continued baiting.

He refused to be ruffled by an Adelaide newspaper’s attempt to create a faux-scandal when it printed photos of a night out at a local watering-hole four days before the second Test.

He bounced back from a Johnson sandshoe-crusher at the WACA and the blunt suggestions of Shane Warne that Broad was the subject of Graeme Swann’s departing swipe at ego-driven players.

He even managed to talk a man down from jumping off a bridge in Sydney, along with teammate Matt Prior.

And while most of his teammates seemed to be constantly checking their calendars in the vain hope their departure date might arrive early, Broad, along with Ben Stokes, showed fight where others exhibited fright.

The bowler could leave Australia behind with his head held high, despite his team losing 12 games and winning just one.

In the Tests he took 21 wickets at an average 27.52, he played three ODIs for a return of five wickets at 29.60 and after taking the captaincy reins from the deflated Alastair Cook for the T20 Internationals, he claimed four wickets at 21.00.

And somewhere along the line, the booing grew quieter, and the insults softened. It seemed Australia had developed a grudging respect for a worthy opponent.

"It's actually a bit disappointing now – it's getting less and less," said Broad of the fading jeers ahead of the T20 series. "You have to really listen for them now. 

"I mean, at Brisbane in the first Test I thought if it continued like that I wouldn't have any eardrums left. 

"To be fair, it's been quite good fun; I've enjoyed it and enjoyed the banter with the crowd. 

"It's not been frightful general abuse, I feel like I've embraced it OK, it's not really affected my performance particularly, I don't think. 

"And there's not many people in the world who can say they've been called a "W" word by 40,000 people. So, I've got that one."

Of course, he was still happy to bait the hook and drop it into the twitter stream, cheekily tweeting after England won their solitary match of the summer, the One-Day International at the WACA.

He even took charge in the absence of the England media manager in the press conference that followed the final T20 loss, good-naturedly fielding the questions alone.

And during his final weeks of an exhausting and disappointing tour, he posted cheerful pictures on his Instagram account as part of a 100 happy days campaign and promoted The Broad Appeal, which raises money and awareness for Motor Neurone Disease.

Hardly the actions of a 's--t' bloke.

If Australia has learned to respect, if not like, the 27-year-old medium-pace bowler, it seems the feelings are mutual.

His final tweet before flying out of Sydney spoke volumes:

You’re welcome Mr Broad, you’re welcome.