Former West Indies fast bowler Michael Holding said he was “shocked” by Stuart Broad’s omission from England’s line-up for the opening Test against West Indies at the Ageas Bowl.
England opted for a pace attack of James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and stand-in captain Ben Stokes, with Broad’s absence his first for a Test at home since 2012, when he was rested against West Indies at Edgbaston in a dead rubber.
Speaking on Sky Sports, Holding expressed his belief that West Indies would be buoyed by England’s decision to leave out Broad – who took 30 wickets at home in 2019 at an average of 23 – leading to the break-up of England’s fabled opening pace duo of Broad and James Anderson.
“I think the West Indies won’t mind seeing him sat down in the dressing room and not being out there with Jimmy Anderson,” said Holding. “Not to say England don’t still have an outstanding bowling attack. They’ve got a great bowling attack. They have so many fast bowlers from which they can choose, but just the thought that you’re batting against two men operating together with over 1,000 wickets – that must play on your mind a bit.
“To see one of them out of the game – not that West Indies will relax because they can’t relax against this type of bowling – just mentally they may think to themselves, ‘I’m a little better off not having to face both of them’. These guys have been doing this job for donkey’s years and as we know Stuart Broad, when he hits his straps, gets on top of the opposition, he gets lots of wickets.”
Writing in his Mail on Sunday column last week, Broad admitted that “competition for places is extraordinary”, with Chris Woakes the other seamer in England’s 13-man squad to miss out on selection.
Speaking at the toss, Stokes – filling in for Joe Root – argued that Archer and Wood’s extra pace offered “another dimension”.
“Obviously, a very, very tough decision,” said Stokes when revealing the bowling attack. “We feel Woody and Jofra’s pace adds another dimension to the options we can have. Obviously there’s a lot of disappointment around with this being the first game back but the two guys missing out took it like absolute champions and understood the reasons.
“Stuart took it like an absolute champion and to be fair he wished me all the best. It’s a big day for me and we’re quite close off the field as well so it was nice to hear.”