Mark Butcher, speaking on the latest Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast, claimed that Stuart Broad and James Anderson would no longer be playing Test cricket had they been picked for England’s winter series in the West Indies.
England’s squad for the first two Tests of the New Zealand series includes the experienced pair for the first time since the final Ashes Test in Hobart. Broad and Anderson were left out of England’s tour of the West Indies in March, with interim managing director of England men’s cricket Andrew Strauss saying their dual omission was a “strategic decision”. Young quicks Matt Fisher and Saqib Mahmood – who are both ruled out of the summer with stress fractures to the back – made their Test debuts in the pair’s absence.
Butcher argued that had their duo played in the Caribbean, their Test careers would now be over. “Guaranteed, if those two had been bowled at Antigua and Barbados, neither of them would have their Test match careers still,” he said. “Both of them would have either decided themselves or would have been retired. So, we are where we are.”
The opening two Tests saw just 15 wickets fall to England’s seamers on a pair of lifeless surfaces at Antigua and Barbados as England twice bowled more than 150 overs in an innings. Among England’s seamers, only Ben Stokes and Saqib Mahmood finished the series with bowling averages below 45.
Butcher also suggested Anderson, in particular, now finds it difficult when conditions don’t go his way later on in Test matches. “[Last summer he took] hardly any [wickets] when the game went down to the ball swinging the opposite way, when speed through the air and the pitch had all the moisture burnt out of it, particularly you think back to the Test match here [The Oval] in India’s second innings, which is why the whole thing about the winter [discontent around Broad and Anderson’s omission] is so frustrating.”
Despite having a superb year in overseas Tests in 2021, Anderson averaged 32 with the ball in home Tests. There was a marked split between his first and second innings returns. In the first innings, he took 16 wickets at 19.62; in the second innings, he claimed just two scalps at 131.
Broad, four years Anderson’s junior, averaged 39.50 in Test cricket last year but enjoyed a good start to 2022 before he was dropped for the West Indies tour, taking 11 wickets at 22 at the backend of the 2021/22 Ashes.