It evoked memories of Cook’s own perfect ending at the same ground five years earlier, with the left-handed opener recording an outstanding 33rd Test hundred in his final Test against India.
And in his new autobiography, Broadly Speaking, Broad has now revealed that his long-time England teammate helped convince him that the end of the Ashes was the right time to close his career.
“Alastair Cook told me when he retired that whenever I was thinking about the issue, if choosing to confide in others, I should keep the circle of trust extremely small,” Broad writes. “Discuss it only with a select few, because even if you’re only thinking about it, if your bosses become aware, they will assume you now lack motivation. Which, in the instance of you carrying on, might lead to them not offering you a new contract.
“Away from cricket grounds, I considered some facts. I had just turned thirty-seven. Then again, in the next thirty appearances Jimmy Anderson made after his thirty-seventh birthday, he took 107 wickets at under 21 runs apiece. Statistically, he got better. When I considered that, I genuinely believed I also had 100 left in me.
“Once the final Test began, I didn’t want any of these thoughts occupying my head space at all, so I called Cookie over the practice days. Moving on from the international scene is something you have experienced relatively recently, I said. How did you feel in the lead-up? He said that ultimately he just couldn’t tell anyone. Not even Alice, his wife. He was so emotional that instead of discussing things with her, he ended up texting her, saying, ‘I’m going to retire.’ She texted back: ‘I know.’
“Psychologically, I felt in that same place. We discussed the fact I had no internal signposting one way or the other. He told me that one of the nicest feelings he’d had carrying on in first-class cricket with Essex for five years was people saying to him: I wish you were still playing for England. Memories of him scoring that farewell hundred at The Oval against India had left people wanting more.
“Cookie said he would never lean me towards one way or the other, but would ring me back later with further thoughts. He texted back instead, simply saying: ‘I think you know. I honestly reckon you won’t regret going six months too early. You have achieved everything you wanted to achieve and you’re the only cricketer I know who can say they thrived in and delivered in every big moment. Surely, that’s the best feeling ever?’”
While Broad ended his county career at the same time as his international retirement, Cook played on for Essex until the end of this summer.
A series of consistent run-scoring seasons showed that little of the opener’s ability had been lost, with the 38-year-old confirming his retirement from professional cricket last month after 20 years at Chelmsford.
Broad is certain that he could have continued to thrive in Test cricket, but feels it is far better to bow out on your own terms than be forced into retirement by dipping performance levels.
“The way I bowled on the twenty-fifth day of twenty-five told me I could have carried on, and that was a prospect I had considered at length,” explains Broad, who finished the Ashes as England’s top wicket-taker in the series. “I was physically able to get through an unbelievably intense Test series and not let my standards drop.
“Ultimately, though, I’d always wanted to leave the game loving it. I still did. It was not something I could cast-iron guarantee in future.
“For some time previously, there had been a bit of fear gnawing away at me whenever I turned my thoughts to hanging up the headband. It was the prospect of playing against an up-and-coming twenty-year-old and them saying, ‘I heard he was okay, but he’s rubbish.’ And so, I wanted to hit the finishing line chest out, with those around me unequivocal in their belief I could still do a job. A couple of people inspired me in this regard.
“Firstly, Alastair Cook – scoring a hundred in his final Test appearance against India at The Oval aged thirty-three. He has had several years of being told he had gone too soon, which is infinitely more preferable to being told you’ve stuck around too long.
“[Former Nottinghamshire wicket-keeper] Chris Read was the other. When he left Nottinghamshire, every single one of his team-mates were like, ‘Oh God, you could definitely have done another year.’ Sounds better than, ‘You look done.’ Don’t you think?”
Broadly Speaking by Stuart Broad is published on 9th November (Hodder & Stoughton, Hardback).