Forty Funniest Cricketers of All Time

2 - Stuart Broad

Every now and then, somebody will do a similar countdown to this one but based on the far less important cricketing skill of batting. And, if the creators of those lists are English and desperate for the kind of controversy that generates plenty of views of their #content, they'll occasionally put somebody other than Bradman first.

Oh, sure. They'll come up with their 'reasons' for why W G Grace or Sachin Tendulkar or Paul Collingwood is the superior choice to Bradman as the best batsman ever. And they'll offer those explanations with seemingly zero regard to the fact that statistics is an entire branch of mathematics, complete with rigorous definitions and proofs and all the other guff that goes along with branches of mathematics. And when a dude is several standard deviations ahead of everybody else by the usual measure of prowess in a field, then that dude is the best, okay? Just stop with your list-fudging. It's silly and tediously petty.

Silly and tediously petty stuff from Bradman
Silly and tediously petty stuff from Bradman

But, hell, I can be silly and tediously petty too. If tapping into Anglo-Australian rivalry with ludicrous manipulation of rankings gets people talking about what you've written, then I'll play along.

So, look. Stuart Broad is obviously the funniest cricketer of all time. Everybody knew that when I started this list and nothing has changed in the intervening six and a half years. But I'm putting him at number two so this content will go #viral. Please share to make this tactic worthwhile. It's what Stuart would want.

Now let's get on with it.

For a long time, until mid-2013, I didn't appreciate Broad's comic genius. I was like one of those US conservatives who sincerely embraced the reasoning of Stephen Colbert. Or an 18th Century Irishman genuinely outraged by Jonathan Swift's recommendation that the rich should eat the children of the poor. Or a fan of Coldplay.

In my defence, I hadn't really paid too much attention to Broad. And at a casual glance, his comedy antics seemed limited to a) challenging the underpinnings of the English selection policy by interspersing his good bowling performances with ever-increasing stretches of terrible ones and b) looking like Draco Malfoy.

'Red hair... and a hand-me-down robe. You must be a Stokes.'
'Red hair... and a hand-me-down robe. You must be a Stokes.'

What an idiot I was.

Because in the First Ashes Test of 2013, Broad announced himself as a comic genius of the highest order.

First, he employed satire, as he edged the ball to slip (via the errant gloves of Brad Haddin) and stood his ground.

Even today, it's the economy of this satirical punch that most impresses me. Great satire takes purportedly important issues and exaggerates them to the point where they are revealed to be ridiculous.

Are umpiring standards dreadful? Is the DRS system broken? Should players walk? Is the Spirit of Cricket an actual thing, or just that ghost who terrified Shane Watson so?

With a single swing of his bat, Stuart Broad skewered all these targets with a mighty satirical edge.

(And, in passing, kudos to umpire Aleem Dar, who, like all good improvisers, worked with the comic genius in his midst, 'yes, and'ing a 'not out' decision that allowed the master to work his magic.)

Still, it wasn't just Broad's quality satire that won me over. As the Test wore on, this mad genius showcased his comedic diversity. After all, it's one thing to channel your righteous anger at the system into comedy, but if that's all you do, you run the risk of becoming shrill, one-note and tiresomely unfunny.

But Broad is no Ben Elton. No, having cut through his big targets with that one shot, he moved onto lighter fare.

Now, if you'd asked me before that game if there was any more comedic milage to be had from making fun of 1980's women's fashion, I would have snorted derisively. But, once again, I underestimated the comic gifts of Stuart Broad.

For when he walked out to bat in his second innings wearing shoulder pads straight from the set of Dynasty, I could do nothing but shake my head in admiration.

I can't find a picture of what Broad wore in that innings. But it was eerily similar to this.
I can't find a picture of what Broad wore in that innings. But it was eerily similar to this.

This was a man dedicated to the craft of comedy. And, yes, of course he had the smarts to dazzle us with sophisticated highbrow satire. That was no longer in doubt. But with the shoulder pads routine, he showed he was also willing to delve into something as simple, yet hilarious, as wearing ridiculous outfits, if that's what it took to make us laugh. A comic for the ages.

And it didn't quite end there. For such is the depth of Broad's talent that he chose to close out his First Test routine with a form of comedy that most considered dead. On the final day, as tension rose with Australia's final wicket charge for glory, it was Broad who once again released the pressure with his deft comic touch. With Australia trying to win the Test before the (already once-delayed) lunch break, Broad gave us a time-wasting mime revival of 'I think there's something wrong with my shoe'. It was simple, understated and showed off the sheer versatility of this gifted humorist's skills.

Highbrow satire. Unsophisticated prop work. The lost art of mime. Stuart Broad had proven himself to be a genuine all-rounder, indeed.

And that was just one freaking Test.

Now, it's possible that Broad had been performing that level of comic material up until that Ashes series and I'd just never noticed before. In which case, how I'll fill my retirement days is now officially sorted. Binge-watching England cricket from his debut in 2006 right up until that 2013 First Test is surely a perfect way to spend one's twilight years.

But certainly since that Test, the great man has continued to wow us with comedy of the very highest level. So much comedy that I have absolutely zero doubt that despite my best efforts, I'm going to omit some great, great moments from this piece.

So I'll just throw out some of the highlights here and if you can all just let me know the ones I've missed via your preferred social medium then perhaps I'll do a follow-up post before we get to number one.

There was that time in the return Ashes series in 2013/14, where Broad came out to face Mitchell Johnson at Adelaide, in the most fearsome form of his career. Broad, the absolute comic hero, delayed play for eight minutes as he complained about sun glinting off the sight screen, only for Johnson to bowl him first ball.

(That return series, of course, had Broad cast as the villain for many Australians, as he single-handedly propped up the nascent 'Stuart Broad is a shit bloke' T-shirt industry. Broad's status as villain was unsurprising. After all, many Australians had never seen a cricketer refuse to walk before that First Test earlier that year, and the local media – in particular, Brisbane's Courier Mail – had worked the public into a frenzy, refusing to refer to him by name, such was their disgust with his unAustralian poor sportsmanship. Because this is also one of Broad's great gifts. He's a generous comic performer, who inspires everybody else to lift their comedy game too.)

Broad may not be the inventor of the celebrappeal, where a bowler is so confident that a batsman is out that any semblance of an appeal is completely overwhelmed by the celebration that a wicket has fallen. But he is surely the finest ever exponent of the manoeuvre, especially when he takes it into the territory of 'denied celebrappeal' and super-especially when he takes it into the territory of 'denied celebrappeal with decision upheld on review'.

Taking 8/15 and dismissing Australia for 60 in a must-win Ashes Test is perhaps more excellent cricket than funny cricket. Most cricketers would be satisfied with the excellence of bowling the greatest Ashes spell ever. Not Broad. He decided to make it funny too with the spontaneous invention of Broadface.

Broadface!
Broadface!

For a brief time, Broad was England's T20 captain. What did he do? Apparently he led the way to a wonderfully comic defeat against the Netherlands in the 2009 World T20, with a missed run out from the final ball that allowed the Dutch to run the match-winning two. Vague memories of that one. Looking forward to giving it a proper rewatch when I retire. Along with, obviously, Yuvraj Singh hitting Broad for six sixes in an over during the 2007 World T20.

Update: I've apparently conflated two stories of England shambolism against the Netherlands. Broad was captain for a thrashing in 2014. And did the match-winning run out in 2009. I swear. Who can keep up with the Poms and their T20 Dutch nonsense. Thanks to @tickerscricket for the clarification.

He took a Test hat trick against Sri Lanka in 2014. Didn't even notice.

And there are lots of little moments too. According to a glance over my Twitter feed, he apparently injured his eye in an insect collision during his run up. I mean, who comes up with this kind of material?

Stuart F'en Broad. That's who.

Clearly there's an endless parade of great, great comic moments from Broad over the years. But this piece is already twice as long as the Glenn Maxwell entry and we have to stop somewhere. Like I say, if you have any other moments you'd like me to write up, let me know. Maybe we'll add an appendix to this list. But for now, this will just have to do.

Congratulations, Stuart Broad. You're the second funniest cricketer of all time. And, who knows, maybe after I post the final entry, I'll be in the right kind of mood to review that decision.

Broad will open the bowling and bat at ten in our Funniest Cricketers XI. He'll be funnier than everybody else.

Here's the Master List of the Forty Funniest Cricketers of All Time

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