South Africa v England, 3rd Test, Johannesburg January 12, 2016

Anderson puts Tests ahead of IPL swansong

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James Anderson will commit the final years of his career to England's Test team © AFP

James Anderson has reiterated his commitment to England on the eve of the third Test in Johannesburg. Confirming that he will not be entering into the IPL auction, Anderson made it clear that, whatever overs he has left in his career, they will be bowled for his country in Test cricket. Other players may be lured by domestic T20 leagues, but he will not.

"My heart is with playing Test cricket for England," Anderson, who missed the first Test at Durban with a calf injury, said. "So that is what I'll concentrate on doing for the foreseeable future.

"At the moment, where I am at this stage of my career, I want to make sure I'm in good nick to play Test match cricket for England. A couple of months off won't be a bad thing. I'll make sure I come back for Lancashire at the start of the season and get ready for the Test matches at the start of the summer. That's where my head is at."

At the age of 33, and entering his 14th year of international cricket, Anderson's importance to England's Test fortunes is arguably higher than ever. With the team rebuilding both on the field and off it, his experience as the attack leader is second-to-none. And, when we come to reflect on this period for England cricket, and Anderson's role therein, it may be that July 2014 comes to be seen as a turning point.

True, there have been many setbacks since then - the World Cup springs to mind - and there are doubtless more to come. But, from that moment, it is possible to make out a gradual improvement, with a new team taking shape and results starting to improve.

July 2014 was the date of the second Investec Test at Lord's. England, despite every advantage, were well beaten by an Indian side with a poor record away from home. Coming not long after the end of a chastening Ashes whitewash, an embarrassing showing in the World T20 - England were defeated by Holland in their final game - and a home Test series defeat against Sri Lanka, and it seemed there was no end to their pain.

To add to the burden, Anderson soon became embroiled in an investigation into his behaviour following an off-field clash with Ravi Jadeja in Nottingham. England, it seemed, were not very good and not very attractive.

But following defeat at Lord's - Ajinkya Rahane punished England for squandering winning the toss on a green pitch, before Ishant Sharma bounced them out in the second innings - the coach at the time, Peter Moores, held meetings with Anderson and Stuart Broad and made it clear that things had to change.

England required more from them, Moores said. A young England side, finding its feet in international cricket, required its senior players to lead the way. And a young captain, Alastair Cook, had plenty to occupy his mind without struggling to understand why old friends and colleagues appeared unable to set the tone. Anderson and Broad needed to take responsibility; they needed to lead the way; they needed to be better.

The conversation brought almost immediate rewards. Anderson, bowling with greater intensity, was named England's man of the series for their next two Test series - (against India and West Indies; he had already won the award in the previous series against Sri Lanka, making it three in a row) - while Broad, bowling a fuller, more probing length, was unlucky not to have been named likewise for the Ashes. Arguably, neither has ever bowled so well, so often.

It would be understandable if Anderson, knowing he is coming to the end of his playing career, followed the lead of players from numerous other teams and attempted to cash in with appearances in domestic T20 leagues. But he does have the advantage of knowing that ECB central contracts and match payments are worth substantially more than those from most other countries - with the exception of Australia - and he would be far from certain to win a deal in the IPL, anyway.

But England supporters will be reassured that, in a year that offers a daunting 17-Test schedule, Anderson is as focused and committed as ever.

"There is a slight worry about domestic T20 competitions doing so well," he said. "But speak to players and there is a still a passion to play Test cricket. It's a real test of someone's character and skill. It still excites me. I love it. I prioritise it in my head and my heart.

"I'm not the only person who feels like that in the world. Hopefully it's not just players but fans too, but we need people to keep supporting the [Test] game so that it does flourish. Seventeen Tests in a year is a huge challenge, but I get excited about it and I look forward to it."

Training was optional for England on Tuesday, but they will have been encouraged by the sight of Nick Compton - well on the road to recovery from his stomach bug - timing the ball sweetly in the nets. While neither Cook or Joe Root looked in the best of form, the squad is now deemed to be free of sickness.

Moeen Ali was the only one of the bowlers to have a net, but Anderson took the opportunity to peer at the wicket and suggested it should offer bowlers more than the Cape Town surface.

"There will be more swing here because of the conditions," Anderson said. "And hopefully there'll be a bit more in the pitch as well.

"The important thing is to think about the swing and the lengths we're going to bowl. We know we might get a bit more carry and bounce, so we need to bowl a fuller length even with that bounce."

England will be glad they have Anderson back to exploit any help that might be apparent. Thirty-three he may be and a veteran of 111 Tests, but he remains he remains crucial to their chances of success.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JG2704 on January 15, 2016, 21:37 GMT

    @JOSEP - Fair enough posts. I think we probably are always looking at replacements for ageing players. Although I think in some positions we run out of patience in giving players opportunities. Root was moved up to open - replacing Compton who himself was controversially dropped and was given one series vs Oz in Eng summer of 2013. He had a lame series but did score a massive ton and then was moved back down the order. Maybe Compo should not have been replaced but IMO once that decision was made Root maybe should have been given more time as an opener. He had after all opened for Yorks and was scoring runs for fun early that season. Could it just be that he was out of nick? And the spinner issue is a joke for which they take no responsibility and seem to blame the pitches. They constantly ignore opportunities to give spinners a try and the way they treated Kerrigan probably finished him as a possible Eng bowler

  • JG2704 on January 15, 2016, 21:36 GMT

    @MULTIPACK - That's as dumb as you can get.he was never captain so it would have been the captain's choice and not Swann's as to when he bowled. Any student of cricket will know that one of Swann's strengths (and Tredwell too) is that they have the mental strength to come back from the odd over where they take some flak and not let it affect their thinking - if their stats were being protected they wouldn't be brought back. Ever considered that the junior/part time bowlers used are because the captain has lost faith in the lack of control from some of his pacers and just maybe the batsmen have paid guys like Swann and Tredwell respect because they realise that they are harder to get away than the pacers? In T20 they're always attacking and I reckon Swann always bowls his full quota. Also any student of the game will often notice re Eng in ODIs. Swann aved 27.76/ER 4.54 in ODIs and 16.84/6.36 in T20Is which is outstanding. I still say he is by far our biggest loss in recent years

  • multipack on January 15, 2016, 8:23 GMT

    no surprise tht swann never got an ipl gig. in shorter formats he always hid when the batting side attacked. so many times the junior or part timer would come for no apparent reason that i could see except that swann was being protected. batsmen are often accused of batting with their average and not the team cause in mind but bowlers do it too. swann being one of the most obvious

  • JG2704 on January 14, 2016, 21:14 GMT

    @VENKAT_GOWRISHANKAR - One thing I will say about the IPL franchises is that they seem inclined on spending bigger on a batsman who will occasionally hit a quickfire 50 than a bowler who will consistently do a tidy job. I think Tredwell's days are over for England but IMO they discarded him way too soon and with no dodgy run of form to cite as a reason. I didn't realise Snape had done the IPL thing. I think one of the issues with Eng players doing the IPL thing is that many of the other IPL imports have become established over the years and are nailed on each year so it is harder to get a berth. I'm surprised Swann wasn't picked up a few years ago even though it would only have been a half IPL as I've seen Aus players play half IPLs and I feel Swann had both the bowling nous to succeed as a performer and the charisma to captivate the fans.

  • baghels.a on January 14, 2016, 15:41 GMT

    @DREZ: Thanks for replying and yes i am scared and exited at the same time, i am 38 years old and i grew up watching Indian national team, even with my other favorite sports Football it was mainly nation v/s nation battles in World Cup and Euros as there was no telecast of league Football in India unless it was Champions League final but over time i have become huge fan of Club football and i swear by FC Barcelona. Your point regarding allegiance is valid but in Cricket unlike football most of clubs/franchises have majority local players for example in IPL you have got to have 7 Indian players in the squad so you don't lose the local flavor and identity.. Funnily enough many European football clubs have more fans in Asia and Africa then they have in there own countries but then i guess Football is a truly global ,massy,popular sport...

  • DrJez on January 14, 2016, 14:34 GMT

    @baghels.a. Interesting points you raise about clubs/franchises. They are of course the bread and butter of any sport. Where the talent is nurtured and developed. Where sometimes the quality of the competition can be very high. We now of course live in a global society in which many of us have easy access to news and TV coverage of all these "club" games whereever they are. So I can watch IPL, BBL, CPL, NWB or whatever very easily. BUT ... do I really want to watch these ? I stress this is not a comment on the quality of the games. The problem rather is that I have no real allegiance or attachment to Essex or Bangalore or Sydney, which are just points on a map. I do have allegiance to the country I grew up in and to my local team within that country. So the thought of cricket being played solely by local franchises, and not by international teams, I find very frightening.

  • Venkat_Gowrishankar on January 14, 2016, 14:27 GMT

    @JG2704 - Well put mate . For someone like Tredwell to participate in the IPL, The ECB and the English One day coaching setup would benefit more. I believe that One day cricket has evolved a lot thanks to these domestic T20 Leagues and unfortunately this where ( in my opinion) england needs a bit of catching up to do. Someone like Tredwell, who is a canny orthodox bowler , would learn more on the nuances of the game such as field setup for a spinner,soaking up the pressure of playing before big crowds, bowling in the sub continent - rarely do you see England opening the bowling with a spinner, whilst it is quite common in the SC in a T20 . In my personal opinion, Tredwell would definitely be a success.Spinners like wine , get better with age and he is no exception!, Englands needs to realize that they need a genuine spinner if they were to have a chance at WT20(no offence moeen!). Snape did well in the IPL , Tredwell is miles ahead of snape!

  • JG2704 on January 14, 2016, 10:36 GMT

    @VENKAT_GOWRISHANKAR - I'd like to see how someone like Tredwell would do in IPL or Swann before retiring? Tredwell has been frozen out of the Eng white ball set up despite being our most consistent bowler. Would love to have seen him put his name forward , get picked up and do well to show our set up we discarded him too early

  • JG2704 on January 14, 2016, 10:29 GMT

    @VENKAT_GOWRISHANKAR - Thanks bud. Though there have been occasions when Aus (and I think maybe SA and NZ) have arranged tours which overlap IPL and the players from these nations have been available for half the games. I think the current Eng set up embrace IPL more than previous regimes so I think you'll see more flexibility re Eng players availability. Anyway I think we're pretty much on the same page here. As I said , re Jos the IPL is a great move for him and re Jimmy maybe not so great. And yes I think Jimmy will concede he would not get picked up anyway but I still believe he would have chosen tests over IPL. What I don't like is some IPL fans who need to say things like it's sour grapes and Jimmy is criticising IPL which is not true. Of course the fact that Jimmy wouldn't be picked for IPL will be part of the decision but he's not said anything bad about IPL - Just that he prefers tests. Not sure why fans can't respect players who choose IPL over tests and vice versa.

  • baghels.a on January 14, 2016, 10:24 GMT

    @ABHIJIT:I am genuinely amused by the distinction you create between T20 leagues and T20 Internationals , to me and for many others both are the same, i feel rather than the format the concept of clubs/franchises playing cricket is what that bothers you, well world over all major sports are club based and finally Cricket is embracing the same. Club based sports leagues like IPL are more representative than national teams who are only limited to 15 or 16 players. IPL and BBL are Godsend for uncapped local Indian and Australian players respectively.Finally it is not just T20 but all bilateral ODI's are also like Masala movies with no context or meaning and hardly contribute anything apart from overkill and viewer fatigue.

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