England news April 18, 2013

Anderson ready for the long haul

England's leading fast bowler has had a few weeks off since the New Zealand tour but the focus is now returning to cricket during what could be a career-defining year

James Anderson is "refreshed" after a short break following the New Zealand tour, but he may want to bottle that feeling as he prepares for a summer that will test minds and bodies to the extreme. And reaching September is only half the challenge. By the time the final ball is bowled in Sydney early next January, England will have played 15 Tests in 10 months.

It is enough to make a fast bowler question his choice of occupation. If Anderson, or any of the pacemen set to be involved, make it through without a significant problem it will be a remarkable feat of endurance. "It can be done," he insisted.

If there is a fast bowler around who you could feel confident in sustaining himself over what England have in front of them, it is Anderson. There was a suggestion during the tour of New Zealand that he had an injury problem, but concerns over his back and ankle were downplayed and the man himself insisted that they were nothing more than the normal niggles that are part of his job.

Since returning to the Test team on a consistent basis on the 2008 tour of New Zealand he has missed just one match through injury, when he picked up a hamstring problem against Sri Lanka in 2011 and sat out the Lord's Test. That is an impressive record.

"I'm not sure I have a secret," he told ESPNcricinfo. "I just try to do the right things, work hard in the gym and look after myself. But you need a bit of luck too, because the nature of fast bowling is that injuries are part and parcel of it. Fortunately, over the last few years, I've managed to steer clear of anything serious and hopefully that will continue."

Three of the other four Tests Anderson has missed since 2008 have come when he has been purposefully rested by Andy Flower with a view to his workload ahead. He missed the 2010 tour of Bangladesh because what followed that year was not far off the demands facing England in 2013 when a summer of six homes Tests was followed by an Ashes tour.

The topic of rotating players remains a significant debate. It was mentioned in the Editors' Notes in this year's Wisden where Lawrence Booth wrote: "Yet you wonder about the point of it all if, fitness permitting, teams are disinclined to field their strongest side - a basic principle of international sport which, thanks to the schedule, has been made to look like a hopeless ideal."

Anderson has bought into the concept even though seeing someone else claim Test wickets in his place will never be something that sits entirely comfortably. "It can be frustrating," he said. "When it happened against West Indies at Edgbaston it was frustrating, particularly when you've been through injuries in the past and missed cricket. When you are fully fit you want to play every game you can, but I can see the point of it. I know what they are trying to do - prolong your career - and they are doing it with the best intentions."

Still, no player in their right mind will want to miss any of the cricket coming up this year, with a global one-day trophy on offer and the more private battle of the Ashes. However, Anderson is conscious - perhaps swayed by what happened in New Zealand - that while everyone else wants to look ahead to Australia there are more immediate tasks to deal with.

"We know it's a big year, but our biggest challenge is not looking too far ahead," he said at a Slazenger event. "Obviously everyone wants to talk about the Ashes but it's quite dangerous if we take our eye off the ball. We have the Champions Trophy and two Tests against New Zealand before that. We were pretty disappointed with the result in New Zealand so we want to start well against them."

For Anderson, the opening international of the season (providing he isn't rested) should see him cross the 300-wicket barrier. It would be fitting for him to do it at Lord's, the ground where he made his debut against Zimbabwe in 2003, an occasion marked with a five-wicket haul, and overall where he has 51 wickets at 28.27 in 12 Tests. But rather than looking at the significance of the moment Anderson will just be happy to tick it off.

"It would be lovely to do it at Lord's, but really I'd just like to get it out of the way, I don't care where, just so people stop talking about it. Milestones are something you look back on when you finish your career and for people to judge you by. In the here and now I just want to help win international games."

The problem for Anderson, however, is that if he manages to stay fit during all the forthcoming Tests then it will not be long before the talk turns to another milestone, with the prospect of him standing alone among England bowlers with 400 Test wickets. However, if he does reach that landmark, to borrow part of Fred Trueman's remark from when he became the first bowler to 300 scalps, he'll "be bloody tired".

James Anderson uses the Slazenger V100 TAS Ultimate bat, part of the new 2013 Slazenger cricket range, which is available to buy for £375 from store.slazenger.com

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • shashwata on April 23, 2013, 4:44 GMT

    @ Surlycynic : Now that you have made the wild suggestion that Jimmy is the tenth or eleventh best bowler in the the world ATM , would you kindly take the pains to elaborate just WHO exactly are these 9 or 10 bowlers ?? And please specify if they are invisible because the rest of the world doesn't quite see them.

    IMO only Steyn is better than Jimmy.Phil is excellent but he will have to do well in the subcontinent as well to get ahead of Jimmy.Morkel is good but inconsistent.Ind , WI, SL and PAk seamers are average at best. And as for Australia , it is quite amazing how players look more threatening when they are on the bench than when they are on the field ! The Aussie pace battery has immense potential and talent but they have to spend more time on the field than in the hospital to be worthy of any comparisons with Anderson who is one of the premium fast bowlers of the modern era , if not the best.

  • shashwata on April 22, 2013, 14:42 GMT

    @ FFL : You go too far with your "England- so- great " and "Anderson-a- magician-with-the-ball " rants. He is very good and there is no doubt about that. But he isn't GREAT. Great is for Murali, Warne, Mcgrath and probably Pollock in the modern era. Not for Jimmy.Atleast not as of now. Though I must admit I would love to see him up there.

  • shashwata on April 22, 2013, 14:36 GMT

    @ JoelCarter : Please enlighten me on the facts that made you say that Anderson's performances have been going downhill in the last 2 yrs. I am sure you haven't followed him AT ALL in the last two years. Anyone who has would tell you that the last 2-3 yrs have been the best of his career.

    To my knowledge (and it may not be as eye opening as yours indeed !) Jimmy destroyed the Aussies in Ashes 2010-11 and then dismantled India with 21 wickets. He was good in UAE and SL as well and simply solendid in India.That means he has had only 2 poor series in this duration , against SA he was simply below par in all the matches and against NZ he looked tired and out of sorts.

    These facts in no way ,to my mind ,imply his downfall. You must be talking about some other Anderson all together or maybe you have some "weird and unrealistic stats and facts " collection. But go on , I am hoping he would correct most of those ideas and give you enough to burn your heart over , post the Ashes.

  • Dummy4 on April 21, 2013, 16:27 GMT

    Anderson is probably the best bowler in the world after Dale Steyn. He is very fit and has a tough year ahead of him.But I am pretty sure that he will sustain it and pick many wickets this season.Have to appreciate the way his workload is being managed by English support staff. Something India too can learn from in managing Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma.

  • Shanmugam on April 19, 2013, 17:04 GMT

    @SurlyCynic, would love to know who are those 9 (or 10) seamers who are better than Jimmy atm. Steyn and Philander, for sure, but who else? Morkel is not that great as the SA fans make him out to be. He averages around 30 after 50 tests as well. So, at best, he could only be as good as Anderson. Before you mention Abbott, he has played only one test. The Aussie pacemen are good but it is too early to say that they are better than Anderson. Not yet.

    @Meety, agreed but I don't see him missing the CT. Even assuming he misses all other ODIs, and as you rightly point out, it is to England's benefit that he prolongs his test career rather than play limited overs cricket, I don't see him playing all 12 tests. That is too heavy a workload for any seamer.

  • Andrew on April 19, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    @Shan156 on (April 18, 2013, 18:33 GMT) - it should be via ODIs. Long term, there is nothing to gain for England playing Anderson in the short form. IMO - the 15 Tests workload would be manageable IF he wasn't playing short form - same goes with most other pacers. @SpecialSauce on (April 19, 2013, 5:36 GMT) - it's not only averages, his S/Rate is a long way of greatness. That said, over the last 5 years, IMO he has been well & truely in the top 5 pacers going around.

  • Nick on April 19, 2013, 5:36 GMT

    @ Front Foot Lunge... 300 isnt really coveted these days, maybe in the 70's and 80's when not as many test matches were played more like 400+ nowadays, then he is in the company with the likes of Ambrose, Pollock, Hadlee, Walsh, Akram and Mcgrath, the great fast bowlers of the modern era and if he stays fit i am sure he will get there, shame he doesnt have the help of other bowlers in the current set up that the other names above had in theri respective teams the other thing he really needs to improve to be considered great is his average he sits at 30+, Mcgrath's average was just over 21, Akrams just over 23 big difference

  • ramachandra on April 19, 2013, 3:39 GMT

    @ Frontfoot lunge

    Andersons bowling average against Australia is 39, against India its 30. Hardly proving to be a sorcerer.

  • Dummy4 on April 19, 2013, 2:04 GMT

    England quickly need to drum up a better bowler then Anderson if they are to avoid a 5-0 defeat to the Aussies at home. It is an embarrassment to all English supporters that this bloke is still playing International cricket. He has never succeeded at the top level and has been on a steady decline for the past two years. Would love to say I am looking forward to the Ashes but realistically it looks like we are going back to the days of Australia having the Ashes for 16 years straight without ever looking like losing.