Like many young cricketers Justin Broad has been inspired by the greats of the game. But the Northamptonshire batter, who burst into the first team this year, thanks two of the finest for helping to shape his nascent career.
Born in Cape Town, Broad, 23, first benefited from coaching at Gary Kirsten’s Academy at Rondebosch High School before working with Alec Stewart at Surrey who helped him line up a trial at Wantage Road.
Broad’s father Neil proved inspirational too. A former UK number one in tennis, Broad senior won seven ATP tour doubles titles, as well as the silver medal in the doubles at the 1996 Summer Olympics partnering Tim Henman. He also teamed up with a young Roger Federer in the doubles event at the Australian Open in 2000.
Cricket though was always Justin’s first love. “I played all sports,” he says. “I played tennis as well when I was younger, but cricket was always the main one for me. I don’t know how it came about, but I would always watch Test cricket on the TV. That was definitely my first love.
“Gary Kristen had a big role in my cricket development and Ryan Cook [Director of Coaching at the Gary Kirsten Academy]. I’ve been working with them since I was 15 years old. Especially Ryan, he’s been my main coach. He’s been amazing.
“Just to learn from guys like Gary and Ryan, with the amount of experience they have in the game has been awesome. It’s definitely helped me get where I am today.”
After playing age group cricket for Western Province, he decided to try to forge a professional career in England. In part it was a practical decision based on greater opportunities in the English domestic game, but also about following a long-held childhood ambition.
“My Dad played Davis Cup tennis for Great Britain. So, it’s always been a dream to come here and play and hopefully one day play for England. It’s not something I decided when I was 18.”
He relocated to England immediately after leaving school, playing for Bury St. Edmunds in the East Anglian Premier League and for MCC Young Cricketers who then offered him a nine-month contract for 2020. The pandemic put paid to that opportunity, but another door opened at Surrey, thanks to an old Rondebosch school mate.
“My good mate Daniel Moriarty was signed at Surrey, and he got me involved in training. Then Alec Stewart said we’d like you to play. So, I played 2021 and 2022 for Surrey Twos, which was an awesome experience. I learned a lot about my game.
“Alec’s been really good to me. In 2021, I struggled, had a bad season and he saw something in me and gave me the chance to play for them again in 2022 when I did nicely [averaging 53.83 in the Second XI Championship].”
Broad also played two seasons for Esher in the Surrey Premier League but with no long-term opportunities available at Surrey after 2022, Stewart offered to help make introductions at other counties, leading to the trial at Northamptonshire.
“Helping me get in touch with other counties, backing me and showing confidence in me was huge,” says Broad. “It definitely helped me go to the next level with a bit more confidence than I probably would have.”
He made an instant impression in Northamptonshire’s Second XI. His first 15 innings brought eight half centuries, including 98 against the Netherlands, and earned him a first professional contract.
“I felt I was batting nicely and doing a lot of things right. I didn’t think I would get signed or put into the first team as quickly as that,” Broad admits.
“I was just trying to do the best I could and take it as it came. But I’m happy it all happened fairly quickly.”
“Second XI coach Graeme White made me feel extremely welcome, which helped me settle in a lot quicker and play a lot better.”
Broad quickly became a first team regular in all formats, relishing the chance to play in front of big crowds throughout the Vitality Blast campaign and top scoring with an unbeaten 47 to set up a comprehensive Steelbacks’ victory over Yorkshire at Headingley.
“The Blast was an unreal experience,” he says. “Luckily school sport in South Africa is quite big, so we got a lot of crowds, but it was really cool to play in front of thousands in the Blast.
“Playing at stadiums like Headingley you’re trying to forget about the big crowd and focus on the game, but you’re standing at the non-striker’s end just looking around, thinking this is pretty cool! I had to try to switch on and concentrate and forget about where I was. It was a dream come true.”
While he grew up opening the batting, his List A debut came at number nine in the Metro Bank One Day Cup against Sussex Sharks. In a thrilling finish, he hit an unbeaten 22 and partnered Tom Taylor to steer Northamptonshire to victory. The pair came together with the Steelbacks in real trouble on 173 for seven, still needing 70 to win in just 7.2 overs, but knocked off the runs required from just 36 balls with an over to spare.
“It was awesome batting with Tommy, he’s in such great form. He just chatted me through the situation. Batting at nine is something I’m not used to, but I just try to take every opportunity I get. That was an epic game to win. It was good to get the team over the line for sure.”
Broad’s budding all-round status is something he is working hard on, his medium pacers offering captains a useful extra option.
“I know it can be a big asset. It’s great to be getting an opportunity with the ball. I’m looking forward to developing it, especially in the offseason and hopefully coming back a better bowler next year.”
Broad has already tasted international cricket with Germany and boasts a healthy average of 41.14 from his nine T20 internationals. He has a German passport through his mother’s family and played in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Qualifiers in Oman in February 2022. He top scored with 62 against the UAE before representing Germany again in the Spain Triangular International T20 series last November.
“It was a good standard [in Oman] and an amazing experience. We got treated really nicely and played at some awesome grounds. They’re such a great group of guys from all different backgrounds and cultures.”
For now, he is targeting a place in the LV= Insurance County Championship run-in during September but already thinking about his winter training plans.
“I’m looking forward to developing things like my strength and my bowling, getting that to where I want it to be. Then, hopefully next year, and going forward, I can try to cement my position in the first team in all formats and hopefully contribute to some wins.”