Breakthrough batting

Broad hopes cricket can help win battle against MND

By Oli Burley.   Last Updated: 03/06/10 1:51pm

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United aim: Chris and Stuart Broad

United aim: Chris and Stuart Broad

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Much has changed in the 23 years since Chris Broad was part of the last England team to win the Ashes in Australia.

"We are always told to enjoy life to the full each day and that is where we are at the moment. "
Chris Broad Quotes of the week

Twenty20 has reinvented stroke-play, run-rates have risen dramatically and another Broad - Chris' son Stuart - is now taking wickets AND scoring runs for his country.

In the same time, though, there has been little progress in a cause that is closer to Chris' heart - the search for a cure for Motor Neurone Disease, a condition that weakens the nervous system.

Last May Chris' wife of eight years, Miche, was diagnosed with the most virulent strain of MND, which attacks her neck and throat; a year on she can only eat liquidised and soft food.

In an effort to help find a cure, Chris has turned his attention to fundraising - starting with the Chris and Stuart Broad MND 6-a-side cricket tournament at Wellesbourne CC in Warwickshire on July 18 - to which all spectators are welcome.

"Around 1,700 people are diagnosed with the disease in this country every year so it affects a large chunk of people," Chris explained.

"We're trying to do our best to raise some money and help the Motor Neurone Disease fund research into a cure and undoubtedly they will find one at some point in time - unfortunately it might not be in time for my wife.

"But there are other people out there who are suffering and that's who we are trying to help."

Gracious

Chris has put his career as an ICC match referee on hold to care for Miche, 60, who remains amazingly strong and positive in her outlook.

Her diagnosis came only months after Chris was caught up in a terrorist ambush on the Sri Lankan team in Lahore, where he was acting as a match referee.

"These things do change your outlook on life - there's no doubt about it," he said. "We are always told to enjoy life to the full each day and that is where we are at the moment. You never know where you are so we go out and try to enjoy life as much as we can while we can."

The couple are about to embark on a dream whale-watching holiday in Alaska and Chris added: "My career is more or less on hold but I am pencilled in for Pakistan's series against Australia in July and other one-day matches that are local to me in the UK.

"The ICC have been fantastic towards me in this respect. Vincent van der Bijl, my line manager if you like, and [ICC general manager] David Richardson have been nothing but gracious in all that they've done and I thank them dearly for allowing me to spend this time with my wife."

Achiever

Broad scored six hundreds in his 25-Test career, half of which came in England's victorious Ashes campaign in Australia in 1986/87.

Although Michael Vaughan and Andrew Strauss have both held the urn in their hands on home turf, in 2005 and 2009 respectively, no England side has achieved the feat Down Under for over two decades - something Chris hopes the current crop of players can change later this year.

"Things have gone extremely well for the chaps since Andy Flower took over," he said. "He clearly has got a plan and is driven to produce an England team that is capable of not just winning the Ashes but winning series after series after series.

"There is so much focus on the Ashes nowadays, which is understandable given that it is a great competition, but England's plan at the moment is to aim for that World No 1 spot and you don't get there by just winning the urn. You have to win all of the games that are in front of you, starting with Bangladesh this summer.

"Andy is a quiet achiever and he is getting his message across to each side he is involved in; it's worked in the Twenty20 game - now let's hope it works in the Test and one-day formats."

Rest
Stuart remains very much part of those plans; at the age of 23 he already has more caps to his name than his father despite being rested for the current series against Bangladesh and, fitness and form permitting, he will be a key part of Flower's long-term thinking.

"I have to admit that I can't be objective when it comes to Stuart but for what it's worth I am constantly amazed at how well he does; he's a bright boy who keeps learning all of the time," said Chris.

"I share the frustration he is feeling at the moment at missing out on the Bangladesh Tests but I also look at how much cricket he has played and it's important that fast bowlers do get a chance to put their feet up and rest.

"I worry a little bit about how much time he spends in the gym because resting and recuperating is as important as doing your physical stuff in the field and in the gym as well. But he's got his programme to go through and I'm sure he'll go through it willingly."

Entertaining

Stuart forsook the chance to play in this year's Indian Premier League in favour of focusing on his England career and bowled with distinction in mid-May's ICC World Twenty20 triumph. For Chris the tournament highlighted just how far the game has evolved since the mid-eighties.

"I would never have even dreamed of playing the shots you see these days! But that's the development of the game and I think it's great for cricket," he said.

"People, particularly in this country, are being asked to pay a large amount of money to go to cricket matches so it becomes an issue when they don't see entertaining cricket.

"But you can't accuse the players of today of not producing entertaining cricket because run-rates are higher in Test and one-day cricket, more wickets are falling as batsmen play more shots so it's entertaining all of the way around.

"The biggest change from the mid-eighties, though, is undoubtedly the run-rate. We would be happy with 230-4 after day one of a Test match but if sides don't get 300 in a day now they are disappointed. It doesn't matter if they lose a few wickets because it moves the game forward.

"Five days seems like a long time to play a game of cricket but actually you used to see a lot more draws. Nowadays you see results more often than not."

Now Chris and Miche - and thousands more in their position - hope that decisive research can break the MND stalemate.

For more information on The Chris and Stuart Broad MND 6-a-side cricket tournament, at Wellesbourne CC in Warwickshire on July 18, click here.

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