Former England skipper Michael Atherton has said that lack of cricketing action leading up to the gruelling Ashes was the reason behind the visiting team leaving out pace bowling stalwarts James Anderson and Stuart Broad from the opening Test against Australia at The Gabba, which commenced on Wednesday.
England skipper Joe Root’s move to exclude Broad from the Playing XI after including him in the 12-member squad on Tuesday surprised many given that the Gabba pitch has traditionally favoured fast bowlers. Instead, England went with Mark Wood, Ollie Robinson and Chris Woakes as the three pacers and included left-arm spinner Jack Leach.
Anderson was not included in the 12-member squad on Tuesday as the England team management felt the workload of five Ashes Tests would be a bit too much for the 39-year-old.
There were speculations that Anderson was carrying an injury but an England spokesperson confirmed on Tuesday, that it wasn’t the case. Rather, the decision to leave out Anderson had to do with managing his workload in the high-octane series.
“Jimmy is fit to play, and is not carrying an injury. With five Tests in six weeks, the plan was to get him ready for the second Test in Adelaide,” the spokesperson had said.
Anderson and Broad have 1156 Test wickets between them.
The last time England played a Test without Anderson (632 wickets) or Broad (524) was against Bangladesh in 2016.
“I think they’re just very wary of the fitness situation with Broad and Anderson,” Atherton told SEN Test Cricket on Wednesday. “I don’t think those decisions are on the quality of their bowling. If both had played cricket, had two or three warm-up matches, one of them at least would’ve played — maybe even both.
“They’re 39 and 35 years of age. Last summer, Broad tore his calf really badly and he tore it on the back of no cricket. England had this ridiculous situation in the summer where The Hundred, the new competition, and The Blast took over much of the middle of the summer and it meant that there was very little first-class cricket,” said Atherton.
Pointing to the drawn first Test against New Zealand in June this year, where Broad pulled his calf muscle and missed the entire home series against Virat Kohli’s India, Atherton said that it happened because of lack of competitive cricket for five full weeks in the run-up to the two-Test series against the Black Caps.
“Broad played in the first Test match and he played in that Test match on the back of basically five weeks without cricket. And what the physios and the medics said that he hadn’t got his loads up and then he pulled his calf before the second Test match.
“I think they’re very wary of Broad and Anderson coming into this game on the back of no cricket – Broad hasn’t played since August, Anderson hasn’t played since September, they’ve had no preparation matches, the rain has obliterated what practice they would’ve had, so I just think they were precautionary, really. And that was the reason for it.”