Editor of Brisbane's Courier-Mail explains crusade against Stuart Broad

The Brisbane Courier-Mail has spent the first Ashes Test referring to England's Stuart Broad only as a '27-year-old medium-pace bowler'. Here, their editor explains why

Stuart Broad earned the role of Ashes villain partly by being a wickedly good Test cricketer with just a hint of Australian mongrel in him but mostly by acting with complete contempt for the spirit of the game on that dark day in July.

It's not that Broad nicked the ball to the keeper and stood his ground – that's cricket. It's that he actually middled it to first slip, an entirely foreign concept in the general debate over walking, and stood sporting a docile look of bemusement at all the fuss. Perhaps Broad was as shocked as everyone else and frozen in fear after failing to immediately retreat to the dressing rooms. Australians may have forgiven Broad for trying it on that day. But the most galling aspect of his dastardly deception was that he got away with it – and changed the course of the series as a result.

That set the tone for an English summer of outrageous misfortune for the hapless Australians; a series characterised by bizarrely incompetent umpiring decisions and clearly faulty technology designed to correct incompetent umpiring decisions. But you know all that.

At the editorial news conference of The Courier-Mail the next morning, Stuart Broad's fate this Australian summer was sealed.

"What are we gonna do about Broad when he gets to the Gabba?"

Of course in the tradition of all good newspapers, planning wasn't superb and the answer to that question didn't come until months later. In fact, not until the eve of the first Test.

Our initial swipe at the (friendless) Kevin Pietersen as the English (and South Africans) arrived in Brisbane was a dress rehearsal to test the mood of the tourists for our assault on the real villain. We had thought about going after Joe Root, but he seemed unworthy. And Ian Bell. But truthfully, despite his impressive figures in recent years, most of us can't take him seriously. He will always be Shane Warne's bunny.

A week out from the Test, Allan Border told us that going after Broad would be a bad idea – he thrives on the attention. That changed our thinking. He would be expecting our crowds to jeer and torment him. What if we were to do the opposite and ignore him instead? Give him the silent treatment.

Of course, we were never going to convince a good-natured Australian crowd to be mute. But we could brush him entirely in print, as a symbolic protest. And so the Broad Ban was born. We couldn't wipe the performance from history, so we settled on calling him the "27-year-old English medium-pace bowler" in all our reports. We felt this was an even a graver insult than turning him into an asterisk and refusing to publish his image. What fast bowler wouldn't be furious about being relegated to mediocrity?

His rampage with the ball on day one only added another layer of character depth to the script. As the wickets tumbled, it was obvious (well we were being mauled on Twitter) that we would be fingered for motivating the stunning performance. And of course the "campaign", which had begun to get traction for the Courier-Mail all over the world by that stage, soon "backfired", according to our critics – mostly boring, jealous Australian cricket writers and broadcasters from rival media outlets. And Warnie, who courts the media, but only on his selfie-imposed terms.

When Broad walked into the post‑play press conference with a cheeky grin and a copy of the paper under his arm, there were cheers in our newsroom. He got the joke. In the vernacular from the stands, maybe he's not such a smug pommy dickhead after all.

Clearly most thought that was the end of it, and, after such a commanding performance, we wouldn't possibly go through with the promise to wipe Broad from the paper the next day. We couldn't back down now. We had to go harder. And so the Phantom Menace front page was published with the English day-one hero cut out of the main picture. The scorecard and the match reports referred to him as 27YEMP.

By midway through the next day's play we were contemplating surrender. For the next day, would we run a white flag and an open letter of apology to Broad, or publish an Australian citizenship form on the front and invite him to sign up, given that he seemed to have seen the error of his ways – he hadn't cheated in the first two days, and appeared to share several characteristics for which Australians were renowned: bravery, good humour, exceptional talent, fighting spirit and a mop of blond hair surely only the Pacific Ocean and the searing antipodean sun could have had a hand in creating.

Then along came Mitchell Johnson. Any fears that we were losing our readers with the brazenness of our coverage were allayed when Broad was welcomed to the crease by the (slightly adjusted) time-honoured Aussie chorus of "the 27-year-old English medium pace bowler is a wanker".

Purists have suggested the Courier‑Mail has disrespected a talented sportsman. That's rubbish. We would never have bothered with any player who wasn't an exceptional talent. Jonathan Trott, you're safe.

Christopher Dore is editor of Brisbane's Courier-Mail, published daily from Monday to Saturday and online at couriermail.com.au

Christopher Dore

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