I have to confess that I wasn’t expecting the phone call I received from Andrew Strauss on Tuesday that started with him saying: ‘I’ve got some bad news.’ That’s not what you really want to hear on selection matters, and not something I have heard very often during my career of 152 Test caps.
I always try to find a positive in the hand that has been dealt with me. To be honest, though, that’s been quite tricky this time because the decision to leave me out of the tour of West Indies has hit me pretty hard.
Not to big it up – too much but it has affected my sleep. I said to my partner Mollie one morning that my body felt sore. She suggested that would be stress. No, I can’t pretend I am as good as gold, because I am not. It would be wrong to act like everything’s OK.
I care deeply about playing for England, and first and foremost I am an England fan. Defeats hurt me just as much now, as a 35-year-old player, as they did when I was a kid of 12.
The thing I want most is for the team to be successful and it has been my belief through these challenging past few months that I can play an integral part in getting us back to where we once were in Test cricket.
From a personal perspective, the only positive I can cling to is that my form — and you could add Jimmy Anderson’s recent performances to this too — has been good.
I took 11 wickets in the final two Ashes matches, I have been a Test match standard for a long time and, for the last eight years, you would say world-class.
And so, it makes it even more upsetting that they don’t see me – part of their immediate plans, especially with a view to looking at a way of winning away from home, which was briefly explained to me.
So, how do I assess that?
Well, the decision has been made by a new selection panel really and that decision will arguably differ from the one a new director of cricket or head coach will make in a few months’ time.
I am in the top three bowlers in the country and whether I play — or indeed Jimmy plays — when we resume international cricket in June will be a call for new eyes to decide.
Therefore, as soon as the new regime is announced, it will be important for me to get into a room with them and ask what they see the future looking like. Their opinions are now everything to me.
Playing Test match cricket for your country is one of the biggest honours you can have as a cricketer. I felt when I started out on this journey back in 2007 that I had to earn every single cap and that the best team would take the field in a bid to try to win every game. That is why I’m finding it hard to put it into context.
I could take being dropped if I had let my standards slip but facing up to being overlooked when they haven’t is another thing altogether. That’s why I was so outspoken when I was left out against West Indies in Southampton a couple of years ago. It felt unjust.
The same again here but with the added factor that I am struggling to put things into context. It’s hard to do so when all you’ve had is a five-minute phone call and nothing else.
But I suppose the support I have received elsewhere tells me how other people feel. For example, I have had more WhatsApps over the last few days than when I took eight for 15 to beat the Australians at Trent Bridge in 2015.
I hopped on the Tube in London the following day and people were asking ‘What on earth is going on?’ I couldn’t explain it. How do you?
If anything, that compounds my frustration because if I had spoken to one person who had said they agreed with the decision to leave myself and Jimmy out, I could perhaps begin to understand. Do I believe I warrant a place in England’s best team in Antigua on March 8? Of course, I do. That is why it is so difficult to comprehend.
If I was averaging 100 with the ball recently and had a terrible record in the Caribbean, then OK, try someone else. But I’ve bowled well there in the past and West Indies are a team I’ve had pretty good success against.
Yes, this England team have lost a lot of cricket matches in recent times and I am not against different mindsets and making changes. Yes, we do need to question a lot of things, but surely you must play your best players to win Test matches.
So, has this episode changed the way I think about my career? I just can’t answer that at the moment. I spoke to my mum Carole on Friday because I am waking up more confused and angrier with each passing day, and she just advised me to take time, step away from the game for a bit and figure things out.
Time can be a great healer, she says. But right now, I feel gutted. Do I need to prove myself again? In my mind, I’ve nothing to prove. I am a proven performer, so it is now about the English cricketing summer and mentally and physically targeting the home series against New Zealand in June.
What I would say is there have been times when I have been able to answer such questions with ease. But as things stand, feeling as though I’ve performed well and deserve to be in the side makes it hard.
Understandably, people will ask if there has therefore been some fall-out behind the scenes, a bit of a rumble during the Ashes, but I can categorically say that is not the case. Hence, neither Jimmy nor I saw this coming. We were blindsided.
Honestly, the atmosphere within the team, although we were getting beaten by Australia, was good. I repeat, the reason I was given for being left out was they wanted to change tack in trying to win abroad.
During a post-play press conference last month after I took five wickets against Australia in Sydney, I recommended that the best way of achieving this was to go back to basics and pick the best team consistently.
As you can no doubt appreciate, I have had a lot to get my head round but some brilliant people to help me do so. Mollie has been fantastic. She doesn’t really understand cricket, but she does understand people and I’ve chatted to Jimmy loads over these last few days.
Mainly planning golf trips to be fair because we’ve suddenly had some unexpected time free up, but we have also talked about our individual feelings and tried to understand the decision a bit more.
And one thing I have made a conscious effort to avoid is shutting myself away. I’ve got out for little runs, and they have made me feel better. What I don’t want to do, though, is pick up a cricket ball for a couple of weeks. I will do so when I have decided whether to jump at the latest challenge set for me.
Note: This article has been written by Stuart Broad and is published in Daily Mail UK