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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
April 18, 2013
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 ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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