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Cricket: 'Relentless England makes the right decision about Anderson'

Cricket: 'Relentless England makes the right decision about Anderson'


By means of Stephen Shemilt, BBC

James Anderson.

Photo: Photo sports

And so begins the long goodbye.

It is always head coach Brendon McCullum, rather than captain Ben Stokes, who brings news to the England players, whether it is good or bad.

This must have been the hardest part, even for a masterful manager like McCullum. To look James Anderson – England's greatest fast bowler of all time – in the eye and tell him it's time to move on.

Not quite Old Yeller or Lenny in yet Of mice and men, but suffered a fatal wound during a round of golf. If the Stokes-McCullum era is an epic sports drama leading to a final in Australia, then a beloved character has just been written out of the story. Dumbledore is dead.

Anderson deserved a personal explanation, even if it meant McCullum was more than 11,000 miles from home. Stokes would have been well aware of it and completed the skipper's circle that Anderson brought in from the cold when he took over two years ago.

Any suggestion of a cozy English dressing room, of a lack of accountability – as long as the Bazball Kool-Aid is guzzled – should disappear. This is a ruthless decision from Stokes and McCullum, born winners in charge of a team that isn't winning at the moment.

McCullum talks about “planning to live forever, but living as if you're going to die tomorrow.”

England captain Ben Stokes and coach Brendon McCullum.

England coach Brendon McCullum and skipper Ben Stokes.
Photo: Allan McKenzie/

England are the Ashes forever and so Anderson, who will be 43 when the plane lands in Australia at the end of 2025, is tapped on the shoulder.

Anderson had known for a while, but the secret gained momentum when the story broke on Friday.

He was at Trent Bridge with Lancashire this week, but his Red Rose teammates had no idea. Some of Anderson's closest friends from the England team didn't know either.

A 700th Test wicket, an Everest of a feat for a fast bowler and achieved in the foothills of the Himalayas in March, felt like a complete stop. Had the milestone been achieved in the Ashes last summer, Anderson might have walked away from The Oval arm-in-arm with Stuart Broad.

Anderson remains in impeccable physical condition. Disappointed at having taken only five wickets in the Ashes, he hired a public running track to improve the speed of his run-up.

He arrived in India as fit as ever. Lithe, with granite-chiselled abs and blond hair, he resembled WWE wrestler Cody Rhodes.

But production has fallen. Just 15 wickets in his past eight Tests, compared to Broad's 38 in his last eight. Anderson may have had a hat full against the West Indies and Sri Lanka this summer, but that would only have been a flop. It's the right decision.

For all their talk of revolutionizing Test cricket, Stokes and McCullum are quietly regenerating the England team.

England's Stuart Broad and James Anderson leave the field as the match ends in a draw.  Fourth Ashes Test, Sydney, January 2022.

James Anderson and Chris Broad leave the field in the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney in 2022.
Photo: Action Plus

Broad and Anderson will leave back-to-back home Tests, albeit a year apart.

In the quest for the sophistication that England down under crave, the likes of Matthew Potts, Gus Atkinson and Josh Tongue are waiting in the wings to join Mark Wood and (hopefully) Jofra Archer. One wonders what this could mean for Chris Woakes' future prospects, while Ollie Robinson has work to do to get back into favour.

Depending on the decisions made about the wicketkeeping and spin bowling spots, we may not be far away from an England team where only Stokes and Joe Root are north of 30.

The final of Anderson's career is just one Test, but with that match taking place in two months, this will be an unusually extended farewell.

Broad announced his departure halfway through his final Test, while Alastair Cook only announced his departure just before his. Moving on, Andrew Strauss waited until he had played his last match before telling the world, and Nasser Hussain called it quits right after winning a hundred matches. English cricket rarely does David Warner-style victory laps.

Think of the occasion. The first Test against West Indies at Lord's in July. The man with the most Test wickets for England, with more casualties than any other fast bowler and with the most scalps in the homeland of cricket, ending up on the ground where it started 21 years ago. The grand old man taking the biggest stage of them all.

There will be plenty of time for tributes to a player who has been a consistent presence at the top of English cricket for more than two decades. Anderson has played alongside a number of men born after he made his debut, and there will be supporters in their late 20s or early 30s who can't remember an England team without him.

Strauss made his England debut after Anderson, won 100 caps and played his last Test 12 years ago. As do Cook (161 caps, last Test six years ago), Ian Bell (118, nine years) and Kevin Pietersen (104, 10 years). The 188 caps that Anderson will end up with is a mind-boggling figure for a fast bowler. If he had done less physically demanding work in those same 21 years – batting, for example – he would probably have played 250 Tests.

Some will say that Anderson's third place in the list of all-time leading Test wicket-takers is inflated by the number of matches he has played, that he does not deserve to be above fellow pacers Glenn McGrath, Dale Steyn, Richard Hadlee or Wasim Akram to stand.

But availability is the best option. Anderson has aged better than George Clooney, mastered his craft and has grooved his action to give the impression of accomplished fast bowling. He's the man who had a broken back and recovered to make hard work seem effortless.

Arguably the most skilled cricketer England has ever produced, Anderson is in the upper echelon of the game's greats and is a giant of British sport.

Jimmy being Jimmy is happiest when he's grumpy, the idea of ​​a farewell test, when the spotlight is on a celebration of all that Anderson has to offer, probably fills him with dread.

He may hate every second of it, but he deserves every moment.

This story was first published by the BBC.




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