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The two faces of James Anderson

Why does the man who is possibly England's greatest fast bowler occasionally turn into Mr Hyde on the field?

Sidharth Monga

August 19, 2014

Comments: 60 | Text size: A | A

Dr James or Mr Jimmy? Depends on whether he's on a cricket field or not © Getty Images

Burnley used to be arguably the biggest cotton town in the world. Generation after generation used to work in its cotton mills. The mills went after the Second World War. Now Burnley is not as prosperous as it used to be. Real estate here is among the cheapest in England.

Conversations in barbershops can tell you a lot about a city. Here they talk mostly about football. One of the blokes getting a haircut has worked as Burnley FC's mascot. Now most of the youth here work outside of town. Burnley FC, though, is the pride of the city. The town's population, according to Wikipedia, is 73,500. Five years ago they made it to the playoff finals at home. Thirty-seven thousand went to watch at Turf Moor.

Next to Turf Moor is another Turf Moor. It houses Burnley Cricket Club. It is a modest ground. No stands. Two small sightscreens, a scoreboard, and a small pavilion-cum-bar-cum-office. Charlie Griffith played for Burnley in the Lancashire League. In 1964 he took 144 wickets at 5.2 apiece. His action is depicted beautifully in a series of photos on the bar wall.

Paul Blakey played for Burnley, umpired Under-18 matches, and now runs the bar. He remembers an optometrist who used to play for Burnley's 2nd XI about 20 years ago. The man used to bring his son along, who would score for them. Soon the boy made the 2nd XI as a fast bowler who was not different to any. All of a sudden, when the boy came back after an off season, about 16 years ago, he had grown taller and had added pace. As the balls whizzed by that day, Blakey asked the optometrist if it was indeed his son. Soon the boy dropped a return catch and Blakey said, "Oh well, he is your son."

The father runs an optician's clinic up the road from Turf Moor. In the front room of the clinic are two team photos, from the early 2000s, two of the first times the son represented England. The father is busy: he has to see patients, and then he has to go to London to possibly witness history being made.

The boy now lives in Hale, the posh part of Manchester where many Manchester United players live. He is set to become England's highest wicket-taker in Tests. If you look at skill, craft, strength and fitness maintained and improved upon in a competitive atmosphere over a long period of time, James Anderson might be England's best bowler of all time.

There is a beautiful picture in the bar at Burnley Cricket Club. A young Anderson, bowling for the side, is letting the ball go. His head is looking down, about two feet ahead of where his front toe is, and slightly to his left. The head will go further to the left in the follow-through, and look at the pitch adjacent. This is a rare action. Biomechanists will go on to see it as an injury risk. They will want to change it. That's for later, though.

At around 17, Anderson made it to the Lancashire 2nd XI. Bob Simpson was Lancashire coach then. Mike Watkinson, the former England and Lancashire allrounder, coached the 2nd XIs.

"Jimmy creates a lot of his speed with the slight quirkiness that he has to his action," Watkinson, now the director of cricket at Lancashire, says. "He rotates his body to create a lot of whip with his arm. In doing that, his head - he doesn't do it as much now as he did when he was younger - but he used to quite fall away. People said you can't see where the ball is going because you are looking down at the ground, but it was his way of creating that extra whip."

Anderson loves his music. And movies. He has played a part in the making of one, Barney Douglas' Warriors, about how the Maasai people of south-western Africa are using cricket as a tool to educate, inform and unite

Anderson was primarily an outswing bowler then. He didn't have a contract when he first played under Watkinson. A late developer, thanks to that growth spurt, Anderson had been picked more "on potential than performance". Watkinson says they worked exclusively on his outswing, although Anderson would use the bouncer often. He was often given sweeper-cover and square leg so he could develop control of that outswinger.

Michael Brown used to face Anderson almost every week in the Burnley nets. He is now the club's chairman. He has played for Hampshire and Middlesex. Michael's brother David was best man at Anderson's wedding. The brothers know Anderson's game and his persona - David more than Michael. In May of 2007, Brown opened the batting for Hampshire against Anderson's Lancashire at the Rose Bowl. Anderson bowled Brown through the gate. Brown clearly remembers he had not seen Anderson bowl the delivery before. It was an inswinger. A late inswinger.

Anderson had been averaging 32 against right-hand batsmen and 69 against left-hand ones at that point. He had also had his big back injury because coaches had tried to have him conform to biomechanics. Working with Watkinson and Kevin Shine, the ECB fast bowling coach, Anderson went back to his original action.

"When you have a boy with an action like that, people will have a judgement that he is an injury risk," Watkinson says. "In the end he did a little bit of modification work, and finished up with a back injury - stress fractures. He recovered from them, but in recovering and getting back into bowling, we [Shine and Watkinson] worked together to put a programme in place. Jimmy was instrumental in that, putting a little bit more rotation back into the action rather than protecting the body by not rotating. So when he recovered from his stress fracture, he started to turn the shoulders a little bit more pre-delivery, and he felt much more comfortable and got a bit of that whip-back. That's pretty much where he is now in relation to then."

Watkinson didn't work with Anderson on the inswinger, but he knows why it worked. "In the latter part of his career he has developed the inswinger, which his action is really set up for," Watkinson says. "It is just that at an early age we worked on control of the outswing. So he has great control of the outswing, and now he has the inswing as well, without any change in the action, just fingers and wrists. So it becomes very difficult for the batsmen to read."

His action, which pushes him away from the stumps, to the left, as he delivers, creates deception. "If you are absolutely textbook in the way you do things, you become a bit more predictable," Watkinson says. "He creates deception because he does push the ball in a little bit. So he angles the ball in and it swings away. The batsmen mentally think the ball is coming in, so they start playing at balls they shouldn't be."

James Anderson celebrates removing Cheteshwar Pujara, England v India, 1st Investec Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day, July 9, 2014
Behind Anderson's wickets is plenty of homework © PA Photos

Anderson doesn't just turn up and bowl. He prepares thoroughly. He even got in touch with ESPNcricinfo for some work experience once because he quite fancies a media career. This season, after the disaster in Australia, he did the whole old-fashioned pre-season thing with Lancashire. He didn't just turn up and try to take wickets because he is a Test bowler. "He makes sure he has got great plans for every batsman he bowls against," Watkinson says. "He doesn't go out on the field not knowing about the opposition's strengths and weaknesses. When he comes back to play for Lancashire, he wants information about people he is playing against, where will the fielders be, what is the team plan."

Anderson has done reverse swing in India. He also bowls a slightly split-finger ball on damp pitches to let the surface seam the ball after pitching. He has worked left-hand batsmen over from round the stumps. He is quick to spot weaknesses and expose them ruthlessly. He had such a hold over Sachin Tendulkar that he would start warming up every time Tendulkar came in to bat in 2011. Most skilful or not is a debate for herders as they wait for the cows to come home. Anderson is pretty damned skilful. He is Zaheer Khan with extra pace and fitness. And, many of his opponents believe, a potty mouth.

Michael Clarke wants to let "Jimmy" Anderson know he should get ready for a broken elbow. Rahul Dravid says Anderson has crossed the line often. An India player says it got ugly between Anderson and Dravid in 2011. MS Dhoni says Anderson kept abusing Ravindra Jadeja all the way back to lunch at Trent Bridge, and then pushed him, a charge so serious it led to legal proceedings. It didn't fly; there was no evidence. A couple of Anderson's former team-mates have privately spoken about how abusive he is, even with his own fielders when they fumble. This Jadeja-Anderson episode has revealed that his opponents respect Anderson as a bowler but don't like his behaviour on the field. It is not even funny sledging, they say, just plain incessant abuse, samples of which were noted by the judicial commissioner in the Jadeja-Anderson case. Yet before this incident, the only time Anderson had officially been charged for poor behaviour was in 2007. So whatever he does he does smartly, which probably infuriates his opponents more.

It would possibly confound Anderson's cricketing opponents if they saw him off the field. He was at Burnley Cricket Club before the Old Trafford Test. He interacted with fans in a q&a session. He is still so shy and soft-spoken, he couldn't be heard at the back of the bar despite being mic-ed up. He spotted and identified a man, a Burnley resident, in the gathering, a presence at many of England's overseas matches, and spoke to him for a while, asking why he was not seen at Burnley's games. Anderson makes donations to Burnley Cricket Club. In return he gets the logo of his charity, Nordoff Robbins, on Burnley kits.

Nordoff Robbins works through music therapy. Anderson loves his music. And movies. He has played a part in the making of one, Barney Douglas' Warriors, about how the Maasai people of south-western Africa are using cricket as a tool to educate, inform and unite. Douglas did the Swanny Diaries during the Ashes in Australia in 2010-11, which revealed the funny side of Anderson.

"When he is with a sidekick he has got really good, dry sense of humour," Brown says. "His jokes are actually quite good. He is not shy of taking the mick out of someone with a straight face. People wonder if he is serious or not. It's not often he reveals that to all and sundry. They see it only in the dressing room. Or we see it when four or five of us grab a dinner."

Two years ago Douglas approached Anderson with the idea for the Warriors documentary. "He knows me. He was very keen to help," Douglas says. "He knew the support would help us. He loves the story - the fact that cricket can reach remote places, and can be used to promote really important messages. He talked to me about the love of the game, the way playing makes you feel, the way it gives you confidence.

Observers feel a bit of Ryan Sidebottom might have rubbed off onto Anderson, because it was around the time Anderson bowled with Sidebottom in the England side that he began to develop his Jimmy persona

"He is executive producer - basically someone who can help you to reach areas you couldn't on your own. He has introduced me to good film-making friends of his, some music people, people who can finance the film. He has got a short little role in it."

Those who know Anderson will tell you that the Aussies don't like him because he gives as good as he gets. Bowling fast day in and day out is a tough job. You have to fire yourself up, take your body to extremes you can't imagine in a normal state of mind. You might overstep the mark here or there, but when you look back you don't want to think you could have been more fired up in a particular match.

There is unconfirmed talk that one of the ECB's behaviour tests might have revealed that Anderson the bowler is at his best when he is grumpy and fired up. Alastair Cook has more or less said as much, without alluding to the test.

Anderson is two different persons. James, quiet, dryly funny and helpful off the field; Jimmy, fierce, aggressive, lippy and abusive on it. It seems deliberate, but Brown thinks it is also a bit of a northern thing to be so competitive on the field and normal off it. Darren Gough and Ryan Sidebottom were grumpy on the field too. Observers feel a bit of Sidebottom might have rubbed off onto Anderson, because it was around the time Anderson bowled with Sidebottom in the England side that he began to develop his Jimmy persona.

The Lancashire League is a tough place to play cricket. "You grow up in league cricket where there is much more chirping and banter and senior player-junior player-type chat and humour. It teaches you to laugh at yourself," says Brown. "Also, in the north you have people paying to watch you. Albeit it might only be a hundred people. Certainly in our league you pay your £4 and people are not shy of telling you you're bowling badly."

Brown expands on the two-personality theory. He says Anderson has three of them. One he reveals to only a few - David Brown maybe, or Barney Douglas. And Graeme Swann and other close mates and team-mates. Then there are James and Jimmy. Anderson's mother, by the way, has always hated the name Jimmy. The way mums don't like Mikey or Mick for Michael.

We don't know what she thinks of the Jimmy on the field. We don't know what her husband thinks. They are private people, much like their son. We don't know exactly when James turns into Jimmy on the field. Jimmy himself might not be able to put a finger on when. Nor might Jimmy's opponents. The biggest problem for batsmen, though, is most of them can't tell when he will follow up a perfect outswinger with a spitting late inswinger.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 21, 2014, 23:47 GMT)

@proteas1992 - now you know how we English supporters feel when Jacques Kallis is perpetually talked up as a great all rounder like Botham, Flintoff or Moeen.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 21, 2014, 22:31 GMT)

@BillyCC - if mean average is the best and most accurate measure of a cricketer's quality, Warne must come behind Wardle, Laker Muarli - and merely be on a par with Underwood -among post war slow bowlers. Also, where does this place Graham McKenzie, whose average is very close to Anderson's? Is he outside the top 200? How about Thommo - averaging a little lower than jimmy, the best ever! Does he make it into the top 200?

Posted by BillyCC on (August 21, 2014, 11:47 GMT)

@SettingSun, you must be kidding me. Did they have uncovered wickets back in 2000 when McGrath was at his peak and finished with an average of 21.64 or five years earlier when Ambrose was at his peak and finished with an average of 20.99 or even 10 years before that when Marshall and Hadlee were at their peaks. How about in the late 1970s when Lillee was plying his trade? How about in the mid 70s? Averages are the best and only comparison, period.

Posted by liz1558 on (August 21, 2014, 7:05 GMT)

No doubt England haven't hada truly great bowler since the early years of Botham and Willis.Anderson has been very consistent, but I'm not convinced he ever showed or shows as much promise as Fraser, Gough or Harmison, who all burned brighter but faded faster than Jimmy. Longevity is a great asset, but Finn has the potential to be a great bowler.

Posted by aman15 on (August 21, 2014, 1:56 GMT)

@andrew ibbotson Well said. I am an Indian cricket fan but would definitely admit anderson was just wonderful in the series especially in the last three tests. Conditions perhaps were more to his liking in the last two tests but you still need to pitch the ball in the right areas consistently to reap benefits. In fact I was kinda disappointed that he did not equal or perhaps surpass beefy in the last match itself. Also why the need to compare with other fast bowling luminaries when the article clearly does not make the case for it.

Posted by yorkshirematt on (August 20, 2014, 23:11 GMT)

Good read. Every northern league club has at least one character like Jimmy. Affable and generous of the field, but as soon as he steps over the rope he turns into a right miserable so and so

One slight gripe. Burnley FC certainly did not admit 37 000 into Turf Moor five years ago as it only holds around 20,000. This was the number of fans they took to Wembley for the play off final

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (August 20, 2014, 20:11 GMT)

@ ThirteenthMan - "Let us see how he goes overseas next time."...Let me refresh your memory...India 2012 - 12 wks@30.25 on square turners/low slow wickets...Aus 2010-11 - top wicket taker 24 wks@26.04..ENUFF SAID!

Posted by   on (August 20, 2014, 18:57 GMT)

Indians cannot take this article it seems. Plenty unwanted comments after 3-1 thrash. Indians just accept the moment as it is........

Posted by   on (August 20, 2014, 18:53 GMT)

Wise words Setting Sun.

It's funny, whenever an article is written about Anderson in a complimentary tone, there are literally dozens of people rushing to rubbish him by comparing him unfavourably with other great bowlers. It's like a sport with some people. Even funnier, it's usually after he's just decimated a side "Oh he's not as good as Steyn, he's not as good as Trueman, he's not as good as Sydney Barnes!" Sydney Barnes? The greatest bowler of them all. No, of course he's not that good. You don't have to be the best to be great though. Example? Kapil Dev is a great player but would struggle to get into a an all time World 5th XL. Anderson isn't the best pace bowler england have ever had, but the "possibly" that preceeds the statement in the article makes it an acceptable question. Judging on wickets taken and longevity, He is great. Last thought: Kumble? 619 wickets. Great, Undoubtably, but average same as Anderson and better spinners around in his era. Rest my case.

Posted by SettingSun on (August 20, 2014, 16:01 GMT)

BillyCC - No it isn't. Anderson has never played on uncovered wickets. So a comparison of averages is worthless.

Posted by BillyCC on (August 20, 2014, 15:43 GMT)

Anderson probably makes the top 200 fast bowlers of all time. I suppose if no English bowler makes number 1 to 199, then yeah, Jimmy could be the greatest. The bowling average is the best and only way to compare the greatest bowlers playing in different eras. Sadly, Jimmy does not rate a mention on any "greatest" list.

Posted by nursery_ender on (August 20, 2014, 14:11 GMT)

Posted by lodd on (August 19, 2014, 9:42 GMT) Fred Trueman, Merv Hughes, Glenn McGrath,Mitchell Johnson, Allan Donald, Sarfraz Nawaz, Craig Mc Dermott , Ken Higgs , need I go on ....

Yes, you do need to go on. What on earth is Ken Higgs doing on that list?

Posted by ThirteenthMan on (August 20, 2014, 11:16 GMT)

Let us see how he goes overseas next time.

Posted by gujratwalla on (August 20, 2014, 7:30 GMT)

@ Setting Sun! I have been watching cricket since 1963 and i was lucky to see Trueman in full flow against the great West Indian side that year and up to the point he retired in 1968. Snow followed later and it was a pleasure to watch Bob Willis .I regularly went to Test matches in London every year and can vouch for these bowlers.I rarely watch You tube as the real thing is running in my mind.Trueman in full flow was a sight for the Gods!

Posted by shane-oh on (August 20, 2014, 7:22 GMT)

@Dave.Pearce - thanks. But the article isn't about Steyn. In fact, there is simply a side note in the captions calling Anderson "possibly England's greatest fast bowler". Have you ever actually heard anyone claim Anderson is better than Steyn?

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 20, 2014, 7:21 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx, I know, Its a personal bugbear that the England team play so much test cricket, as they average around 12-13 test per year, next year despite the late start (April tour to the West indies), they play 17 tests, with only 7 at home, that's 3 in west indies, 2 vs NZ at home, 5 test Ashes, 3 vs Pakistan and 4 tests in SA, all by Feb 2016.

However it looks like the same period is very busy for aus with 18 tests, including 2 against WI, NZ and 1 series against BD. This excludes the 7 tests against India and Pakistan series before Christmas, which is probably just a rebalancing and will put them on par with England.

Posted by shane-oh on (August 20, 2014, 7:03 GMT)

I sense a lot of sour grapes on this page amongst Indian fans.

Anderson and England destroyed you. Get over it.

Posted by shane-oh on (August 20, 2014, 6:57 GMT)

@Aseem Sharma - yes, but Anderson's average at home, in victories, when taking 5-7 wickets in an innings, is a magnificent 12.63!

Do you see why it's pointless trying to manipulate statistics to prove a conclusion you have already reached? That's why we look at a bowlers average. Do you know what an average is?

In any case, nobody can argue with the cold hard facts, Anderson is certainly one of the best England have ever prduced, if not the best.

Posted by SettingSun on (August 20, 2014, 6:55 GMT)

As for people comparing him to Trueman and Willis, how many of you actually saw these guys bowl? Highlights packages on YouTube don't count, by the way. Comparisons with bowlers you did not see live are utterly worthless. I mean, why not Sidney Barnes? Why not stop there? You never saw him bowl either!

Posted by Dave.Pearce on (August 20, 2014, 6:54 GMT)

Just check out the stats . No comparison.

Steyn's overall numbers read: 75 matches; 383 wickets at an average of 22.56 and an economy rate of 3.24 runs per over. He gets a wicket every 41.7 balls and has 24 five-wicket and five 10-wickets hauls. He averages 5.11 wickets per Test.

Anderson's numbers are as follows: 99 matches; 378 wickets at an average of 29.83 and an economy rate of 3.06 runs per over. He gets a wicket every 58.3 balls and has 16 five-wicket and two 10-wicket hauls. He averages 3.82 wickets per test.

Posted by shane-oh on (August 20, 2014, 6:45 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx - you're actually gloating about the fact that your team is afraid to play teams like Bangladesh and New Zealand? How odd.

Posted by gujratwalla on (August 20, 2014, 5:29 GMT)

There is no doubt Andersen is one of the best English fast medium bowlers of the last two decades but to call him tge greatest English fast bowler is taking things too far.He is not a a genuine fast bowler as was Trueman or Snow both who were much faster and more effective overseas than him.Snow in fact was simply great in 1970-71 in Australia.Modern cricket has led to more Tests in recent years for English,Australian and Indian players than from the other nations so that they have piled up statstics.Although i must credit Andersen for avoiding serious injury and for serving England loyally i cannot rate him as the greatest.Trueman,Snow andBob Willis remain the best fast bowlers to my mind.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (August 20, 2014, 1:32 GMT)

@YorkshirePudding: The fact that Alistair Cook played 100 tests in a little less than 8 years shows how much test cricket England play. It's amazing how their highest run getter only has 8900 runs. It takes at least 10 years to play 100 tests everywhere else. Cook debuted in 2006 compared to Clarke who debuted in 2004, yet they still reached the mark in 2014 together. Steyn debuted around 2004 and is still around 75 tests, compare that to broad who is near that mark and only started playing yesterday!

Posted by SoyQuearns on (August 20, 2014, 0:36 GMT)

Cricket in itself is full of wonderful contradictions. It's a romantics sport that values aesthetics yet judges on statistics. However such is the level of Test cricket that no matter how good you look you need to score runs at a high average or take wickets at a low average (or mixture of both for all rounders) to be deemed great. James Anderson takes wickets at over 29 and strikes at over 58, this is solid in of itself, no taking that away from him, but when history judges the scorecards and results, people will look back at his record and see a solid performer, not a Test Great.

Posted by Deuce03 on (August 19, 2014, 22:50 GMT)

Obviously, he's not the best ever: like Graham Turner says, that's almost without question SF Barnes (an argument could be made for Lohmann, but he didn't play many Tests). Even taking it post-war, there's Trueman, Bedser, Snow and Tyson to take into account. So let's ask some different questions. - Is he England's best bowler at the moment? Yes. - Is he the best swing bowler in the world at the moment? Yes. (Steyn is a superior fast bowler, but doesn't have the swing). - Is he England's best fast bowler of the last twenty years? Probably.

He's played most of his career in a batting era, rather than the uncovered pitches of the 70s and 80s. Low averages are harder to come by than they were. The average police would do well to note Anderson's is now 29.72, which unless my maths is completely off, is below the "magic figure" of 30. Not many fast bowlers in the last ten years have a better average, and only Steyn has taken more wickets.

Do we really need to say any more?

Posted by Kingman75 on (August 19, 2014, 21:49 GMT)

Well now you know why English cricket has struggled for credibility: Anderson is not even a great player, just a good bowler who has played a lot of tests. Anyone can take 400 wickets, just keep getting selected.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2014, 21:20 GMT)

To those of you here who always bring up statistics to prove points I quote what the great Neville Cardus (the doyen of cricket writers) once said to a young cricket junior reporter who had the audacity to question a batsman's greatness because of his figures -

'Young man, would you say that Laurence Olivier was a better actor than John Gielgud merely because his plays have had longer runs on in the theatres than Gielgud's?'

Posted by Peterincanada on (August 19, 2014, 21:16 GMT)

I think the nays have the right of it. Very good - yes, best in the last 20 years - yes, best ever English bowler - no. Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Sidney Barnes, John Snow, Brian Statham, Bob Willis.

Posted by Proteas1992 on (August 19, 2014, 20:05 GMT)

How can any countries BEST Test bowler average 30? Even for a mediocre cricketing nation like England, it is very embarrassing to call someone who averages less than 4 wickets a test at an average of 30 your best EVER.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2014, 17:58 GMT)

ive watched cricket since the 70s,and jimmy is the best bowler we have had in years since botham ,willis and old. we ,for a small time were no1 test team under Strauss,and before jimmy retires he will have 450+ test wickets,that to me makes him our best bowler by a mile,and if he can get his mind stats into new players,then that will benefit England. Burnley bomber keep up the good work viv

Posted by   on (August 19, 2014, 17:51 GMT)

People get so worked up about Anderson when someone mentioned he might be 'great' or 'the best', something that is never actually said (note the word 'possibly' in the title.) People really seem to object to him been mentioned in the same breath as the 'proper pantheons'! What is great anyway? He has more wickets than any other English bowler other than Botham. His average is very good for someone with that many wickets, especially in this era. Longevity. That's a key word. If Gough had took 380 wickets he would and should be considered great. Same for Johnson and Philander and Herath and so on. In this era, especially if you play for a country that plays a lot of tests, you need to be taking 300 wickets to be considered a great, and he ticks that box perfectly. 32/33 years old and averaging 85/86 miles an hour and bowling more overs than any other fast bowler in the world. Fitness wise he's a machine. He's greatest english bowler I've ever seen and I'm 38. The cap fits.

Posted by Ragav999 on (August 19, 2014, 17:44 GMT)

I think Broad looks far more dangerous than Anderson most of the time. Swann bowled much better than Anderson and did his job very well in unfavourable English conditions. I am not sure why Broad and Swann don't get as much credit as Anderson. Is it because Anderson has more experience and has managed to get a place in people's hearts first? Thereby creating a perception that he is the best of the attack.

Posted by eggyroe on (August 19, 2014, 17:01 GMT)

The whole point of this is as an Englishman he is on the point of being the leading wicket taker for England,what exactly is the problem with this statistic.We have numerous Indians in various articles stating that because he is the top scoring batsman statistically Tendulkar is the best.In my humble opinion he would not get into the best Test 1X all time team by any stretch of the imagination.You can only judge modern day players against the opposition that they have to play against,but in every bodies minds eye they have their own favourites, irrespective of which era that they played and the standard that they actually achieved.

Posted by nachiketajoshi on (August 19, 2014, 16:46 GMT)

Thanks for covering the behavioral-mental aspect of his cricket and his upbringing. We want to know a player beyond his numbers and apparent skills.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2014, 16:31 GMT)

Why do people who should know better make stupid comments like 'possibly England's greatest fast bowler' about a guy who isn't even in the top half dozen ? the mark of any great bowler is that he takes AT LEAST 4 wickets per test. Anderson doesn't even get to that mark, and his average is way up compared to the best. Way ahead is Sydney Barnes then pick any from Maurice Tate John Snow Frank Tyson Harold Larwood Fred Trueman Alec Bedser Tom Richardson Geroge Lohmann

Posted by SettingSun on (August 19, 2014, 16:30 GMT)

DirkL - Cricket is a sport that is rife with utterly worthless statistics but I think you've topped the lot of them with that little find. What a complete and utter load of drivel.

Posted by   on (August 19, 2014, 16:16 GMT)

Darren Gough and James Anderson are both good English swing bowlers. One has an away bowling average of about 27, the other an away bowling average of about 37. Possibly England's greatest fast bowler, especially since the 80s, to paraphrase the article and a few people commenting here, Anderson, is the one with an away bowling average of 36.76, comparable to a certain Ishant Sharma's away bowling average of 38.50.

It is always amusing to see Anderson being hyped whenever he performs magnificently in home conditions. Yes he is a very good bowler, far better than anything India had in this series, but an all time great he is not.

Posted by KishoreSharma on (August 19, 2014, 13:51 GMT)

Anderson is the best English new ball bowler since Willis. He is a far better bowler than Botham. While Botham was a top class swing bowler from 1977 to 1981, he subsequently lost his late out swinger. This, combined with a very indisciplined attitude to bowling, made him a less consistent and effective bowler through the 1980s. Anderson by contrast has grown as a bowler through his career and is now at the pinnacle of his power,

Posted by DirkL on (August 19, 2014, 13:37 GMT)

Career wickets favour modern bowlers. Anderson has been a top 10 bowler or thereabouts for years but has been steady rather than scaling the height. He has just had three good tests, Three. His present ranking is 806, his best ever was 813. That ranks him as the 22th best England bowler of all time. http://www.relianceiccrankings.com/alltime/test/bowling/

Posted by yskpipsRUBESH on (August 19, 2014, 13:13 GMT)

Anderson might not be an all-time cricketer of England, but always an all-time nightmare for batsmen. Definitely the best bowler for the past decade. The fear of batsmen gets him the most greatest gift...PRIDE.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 19, 2014, 13:08 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx, I always start from the end of the England season, and didn't mention the Ashes series we both played in 2009, and if I remember correctly the SA series was at the aussies played SA at the end of 2008 and start of 2009, that was 5 years ago.

England should have played SA last winter (2013/14) but due to the shifting of Ashes schedules we played Aus instead, still we get to play SA at the end of 2015, and that has a had a knockon we haven't played the WI's in the carribean since April 2009, and only have them visit the uk once, at the start of the 2009 summer.

So we arnt loading the 'bases' with substandard teams, there will be a period where aus has to play catch up with BD, WI, NZ (who you drew against in the last home series).

Posted by whatawicket on (August 19, 2014, 12:37 GMT)

i have always laughed when England during the late 80s and 90s England particularly the batting were very poor. but we were the only team that played the Aussies and Windies in 5 test series year after year bowlers of these teams would all get hatful of English wickets. years later i hear nobody saying ( oh this he only got those amounts of wickets against England ). to get these amounts of wickets Jimmy must be good and if he finishes with 400 + wickets he can consider himself a great of the English game. then he may and i say may, be considered a great of the game. people on here seem to always put him up against steyn. perhaps when they both retire both will be classed great

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (August 19, 2014, 11:42 GMT)

@YorkshirePudding. Nice try starting from Dec. 2009. Australia played a 3 test series in SA that year, which was off the back of another 3 test series in Australia a few months before, but still in the southern hemispheric summer! Which takes the tally to 14 tests, double that of England.

Posted by Yevghenny on (August 19, 2014, 10:57 GMT)

To call James Anderson one of the alltimes for England is ridiculous. What of Trueman, Underwood, and Botham? ---

He is about to become the all time leading English wicket taker - how on earth does that not qualify him to be held in similar regard?

Posted by   on (August 19, 2014, 10:53 GMT)

the thing with fast bowlers is that they look good when they are firing all cylinders, when they are grumpy, when they engage the opponents with a glare or a word or two. when they do that you almost feel aroused. keep going anderson. it was amazing to watch you ball this series. it was pure artistry. long time since we saw someone so good.

Posted by muzika_tchaikovskogo on (August 19, 2014, 10:30 GMT)

One thing's for sure: Anderson is the best paceman England have had since the 80s. There may have been others who shone intermettently, but no other English bowler in recent history has displayed such consistent brilliance.

Posted by lodd on (August 19, 2014, 9:42 GMT)

Fred Trueman, Merv Hughes, Glenn McGrath,Mitchell Johnson, Allan Donald, Sarfraz Nawaz, Craig Mc Dermott , Ken Higgs , need I go on ....

Posted by Chn2 on (August 19, 2014, 9:01 GMT)

James Andreson is probably the finest swing bowler of England in the last 25 year and along with Zaheer the best of modern era. He has a very good control over swing both conventional & reverse. But he has a history of controlled sledging when he gets escaped from media with lack of evidence. The way he has bowled against India reminds the way a right handed Wasim Akram should have bowled.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 19, 2014, 7:58 GMT)

@xtrafalgarx, since 01 Dec 2009 Australia have played SA in 8 tests home and away, England have played SA 7 times, in the same period. What you don't mention is that England also played BD in 4 tests in the same period. In regards to the West indies in the same period we have only played them in 3 tests Australia have played them in 5 tests.

see where this is going your starts are wholly inaccurate.

Posted by YorkshirePudding on (August 19, 2014, 7:41 GMT)

@johnathonjosephs, Trueman was a great of his generation, but he was nothing on Larwood, Voce, or Sydney Barnes. Anderson likewise is the best swing bowlers of the last 25 years.

What you fail to understand is that bowlers have a harder time in the modern era, where the pitches are covered so the rain doesn't create sticky dogs, pitches no longer crumble in the way they did in the 70's, 80's and 90's, which created significant uneven and unpredictable bounce and spin.

I often muse how well Fred Trueman would have done in the modern game, would his stats be reflected in the same way? I very much doubt it.

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (August 19, 2014, 6:56 GMT)

England legend for sure. For someone to bowl that many overs year in year out and never breaks down is nothing short of amazing. Most importantly England now has a new slip cordon which might match that of the Ashes 2010-11 squad. How convenient to bring up Ashes 2014 and SA 2012 without mentioning Ashes 2010-11 or SA 2009-2010. Ashes 2014 he had no support, bowlers were falling left and right and only he and Broad were left standing. SA 2012, he was a victim of drop catches. I see the Jimmy haters are out early in full force already...LOL

Posted by johnathonjosephs on (August 19, 2014, 6:35 GMT)

To call James Anderson one of the alltimes for England is ridiculous. What of Trueman, Underwood, and Botham? He his a good bowler for England at the moment and seems to have finally hit his peak. He may finish with an average around 26-27, but keep in mind that he has bowled mostly in England/grassy conditions where the fields are set to his bowling. Steyn, Johnson, Philander, and Harris are all better bowlers than him and out of them only Steyn (possibly Johnson and Philander) will be considered all time greats

Posted by Longfineleg on (August 19, 2014, 6:31 GMT)

An exceptional article; well researched, well phrased and well written.

Posted by xtrafalgarx on (August 19, 2014, 5:13 GMT)

@Sgtm1993: I agree. Howmany timesdoes England have to face WI, NZ, SL and India? They have even had a couple of series with BD in the last 5 years. The last time Australia played Bangladesh was in 2006. England have only faced SA 2 times in 5 years, we have faced them 5 or 6. They played 5 tests against NZ last year, next year they face them yet again. 5 tests against India, a few against the Windies.

Australia in the same period has had to face India in India, SA in SA, England in England. The poms get it too easy, now their batsmen and bowlers walk around with good stats earnt against cheap teams.

Posted by pvck on (August 19, 2014, 4:43 GMT)

@Sgtm1993 if that's all you took away from this insightful, genuine, lovely piece of writing, then I pity you. Great work Sidharth.

As an Australian I shouldn't like Anderson, but I respect him a great deal, and I can definitely empathise with his on-field persona. For me it seems to be a case of never being happy with his best, and being frustrated at every ball which doesn't land him a wicket, something that's admirable, I think.

Posted by GMNorm on (August 19, 2014, 4:38 GMT)

In the good old days a fast bowler wasnt a fast bowler if he hadnt a mean temper. Mining stock the best of them. Nowadays international sportsmen are surrounded by" well meaning " support staff who pump them up with sports medicine leaving them with a big physique and a volatile temper

Posted by Udendra on (August 19, 2014, 4:34 GMT)

I still remember how he cried on the podium at the last presentation of the SL tour. Just shows that he had let that defeat out of his system for the India series. Good character.

Posted by DipanjanMitra on (August 19, 2014, 4:08 GMT)

does this mean - stand aside the likes of Fred Trueman, Derek Underwood, Bob Willis and sir Ian Botham?

Posted by Cricket_theBestGame on (August 19, 2014, 4:01 GMT)

one fast way to get rid of 'jimmy', icc to clamp down on abusive language on the field! everytime a bowler/fielder/batsman abuses another player, they get 1 warning only. if they continue they get reported and banned and 50% fined. problem fixed and 'spirit' of cricket will gushing back :D

Posted by Sgtm1993 on (August 19, 2014, 3:02 GMT)

Anderson is a good bowler but to consider him great is nothing but ridiculously comical. He delivers mostly on home conditions because his style of bowling suits with the conditions that's conducive to swing bowling with side movements against weak oppositions. Aussies showed him no mercy in 2014 ashes, and against SA in 2012, he was clueless. He has plenty of wickets against NZ, Ind, WI, and weaker teams. He's a good bowler..but to place him as England's greatest bowler is mere English hype and good for a laugh!

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