James Anderson would perhaps be doing the same thing in 2034. 250-Test old. 900 Test wickets in the bag. And bowling England to victories on non-responsive wickets, under the captaincy of some Andrew…Something.
Then you would switch on your TV. You see, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes raving about Anderson’s longevity in the commentary box. English cricket writers, now fed up writing the same thing over and over, are now finding some other narrative to focus on. Does George Dobell still write for The Cricketer?
Did I take your imagination way too far? Then tell me, what is the subdued version of this?
James Anderson is now 41. Cricket’s Grandpa, if you’d like. Tired of the Airmiles he has put in the last two decades. 1000s of overs bowled an insane amount of pressure handled, and many memorable victories registered. But he still has the appetite to show up for an optional training session and make a net session with Joe Root a one-on-one bout of pure fire. No need for a juicy reminder - work shows up for itself.
From Nasser Hussain to Michael Vaughan, Andrew Strauss to Alastair Cook, Joe Root to now, Ben Stokes - where eras traversed, Anderson remained the last man standing. Firmly on a strong foot. When captains needed the opposition to hit a bump, it was Anderson who left a lasting impression.
How could it be any different when England arrived at the Dr. Y.S.Rajashekar Reddy ACA-VDCA International Cricket Stadium in Visakhapatnam for Day 3 of the second Test, trying to reverse yet another huge lead? It had to be Anderson.
The ball to Rohit Sharma was the perfect example of the precision he has been able to impart on a cricket ball. It landed on a good length and seamed away just a little. Even for someone like Rohit Sharma, who feasts on balls like this, there was no answer. That ball was like a pacer’s answer to cover drive - aesthetically, it left a huge impression.
When was Anderson only about aesthetic stuff? Substance is his middle name. In his very next over, another full ball angled away sharply to Yashasvi Jaiswal, the double centurion from the first innings, who wanted to drive, but ended up edging to first slip. From a position of complete strength, India were down to 30-2 - knowing very well that anything could be chased down in the Bazball era.
Throughout the first innings, Anderson had shown his ability to control things at his own pace. His intimidating line put so much pressure on the Indian batters from the other end that they had to take risks against spinners. While everyone conceded at least 3 runs per over, Anderson was an anomaly, chipping in with three wickets at an economy rate of 1.90.
When Stuart Broad retired from Tests following the 2023 Ashes, Anderson was mocked. Mocked for continuing even after having a horrible Ashes. Fitness had gone for a toss - but he persisted, unflinched by the calls to retire. Is there a selfish reason? Has he overstayed his welcome?
Max Puger, a Web3 founder, recently made a very good point on Twitter. “The idea that one can tarnish a legacy by playing beyond a prime is one of the worst possible takes in sport... largely pushed by the sorts obsessed with GOAT debates. If you enjoy tennis, you'll appreciate being able to see guys like Nadal, Murray, and Djokovic play against newer generations. Their achievements still stand regardless of what happens now.”
Not that it diminishes his legacy, but Anderson has made himself available. It’s left to the England team management and the selectors to pick him in the XI or not. Or even in the squad at all. He continued to make the effort to be there and even at 41, he embraced the new responsibilities of being the sole pacer in the side. That’s the beauty of James Anderson.
As we motor along, there will be a new crop of pacers in English cricket who would perhaps do more interesting stuff than Anderson. But will there ever be a player who is ready to stay persistent for 20 years - heck, even for half of Anderson’s longevity, and will still have the willpower to do the donkey’s job?
History will be kinder to Anderson than many on Twitter are.
Knackered Anderson feels the effect of Bazball and Jaiswal
Wine and Anderson, both get better as they age
Tactical Preview: Anderson vs India top order & Kohli repeating 2014 mistakes
The madness of Test cricket exemplified by Sydney
James Anderson: Wise, aged but still rich in skills
Anderson surpasses Kumble to become the third highest wicket taker
1000 FC wickets under the belt and Anderson seems as hungry as ever
James Anderson: A tireless workhorse who has aged well with time
Stuart Broad: The perfect partner to James Anderson