Jimmy Anderson is adamant he can recover from ‘the one bad game’ that sparked rumours of his demise he insists have been greatly exaggerated.
England’s record-breaking wicket-taker is fully aware of the whispers of his impending retirement that spread around a largely empty Emirates Old Trafford as he struggled to make his usual impact in the thrilling first Test victory over Pakistan.
But Anderson, just turned 38, still has the desire and hunger to add to his extraordinary tally of 590 Test wickets, – and wants to start in a second Test this week at the Ageas Bowl England originally planned to rest him for.
Jimmy Anderson says he can recover from the bad game that sparked rumours of his demise
Anderson struggled to make his usual impact in England’s win against Pakistan last week
‘For the first time in probably 10 years I got a bit emotional on the field, a bit frustrated, and I let it get to me a bit,’ said Anderson yesterday back in Southampton ahead of Thursday’s game. ‘It reminded me of when I first started playing. You can get a bit angry and try to bowl quicker and quicker and that doesn’t help.
‘So now it’s a case of me working really hard the next couple of days, trying to figure out if there are any technical issues I can sort out and just hope I get the nod for the next game. Hopefully I can show people I’ve still got what it takes to play Test cricket.’
It is a suggestion that would have been inconceivable not too long ago and Anderson’s struggles are, of course, relative. But so high are his standards that questions were bound to be asked after he had taken just eight wickets in three Tests this season.
‘I don’t think I bowled poorly in the West Indies series,’ insisted Anderson. ‘I felt good with the way the ball was coming out and I don’t think too much changes with one bad game. It’s just that something was off this time. The rhythm wasn’t quite there but I’m keeping my fingers crossed the captain and coach keep faith with me.’
But Anderson insists he has the hunger and desire to travel with the team for the 2021 Ashes
That’s where things get interesting. It seems inconceivable England will leave out Stuart Broad or Chris Woakes the way they have been bowling – and batting – which leaves Anderson competing with Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, if he is fully fit, Sam Curran and newcomer Ollie Robinson for a maximum of two places, even with Ben Stokes missing.
And England’s plan at the start of this unique summer was for Anderson, at least, to play in no more than four of the six Tests that have virtually all been played back to back. It could well be that he has to keep those fingers crossed until the final Test.
‘I’ve never counted my chickens and thought I would definitely play in any game,’ said Anderson. ‘I just have to keep working hard. My body feels good and the work ethic is not an issue for me. But I’m sure that won’t be the last bad game of my career.
‘I just don’t want whispers to be going around that I’m about to pack it in every time I’m not at my best. I don’t think that’s fair. I’ve just got to find a way of dealing with that outside noise. I’ve done that really well throughout my career but it’s just a little different now.’
It seems inconceivable England will leave out Stuart Broad (right) or Chris Woakes on Thursday
Clearly there will be no permanent move to the BBC’s Test Match Special team, Anderson’s expected destination when he really does contemplate retirement, or even a place in the jungle with Ant and Dec – or this year’s haunted house – just yet.
Anderson insists he still wants to play in next year’s Ashes. ‘Absolutely I do,’ he said. ‘But it’s not like that’s a focus of mine. I just want to play as long as I possibly can.
‘If I keep bowling the way I did in this last game the opportunity to retire will be taken out of my hands anyway. It will become a selection issue. But I’m still hungry and experiencing a win like we did last week is why we play the game.’
The magical landmark of 600 Test wickets is within a Jimmy Anderson masterclass away for statistically the best seamer to have ever played the game. But he is adamant he cannot focus on those 10 wickets he needs to get there.
That could leave Anderson scrapping with the likes of Mark Wood (right) for a spot in the XI
England are also set to consider Sam Curran (above) as well as newcomer Ollie Robinson
‘It’s not a huge thing for me really, just like the other milestones I’ve reached,’ Anderson said. ‘My sole focus is contributing to this team. That attitude has served me well and if it gets me to 600 wickets then that will be great.’
How about playing another eight Tests to go past his great friend Sir Alastair Cook and become England’s most capped player? ‘Yes, that’s all I’m interested in. Getting past Alastair Cook,’ Anderson dead-panned. ‘No, I still can’t actually believe the number of Tests that are beside my name.
‘When the teams go up on TV 154 does seem like a lot of games. If I can go past Cooky it will probably be the only thing I’ve got on him. But I do think I’ve got quite a few left in me.’
Starting, he hopes, against Pakistan this week.
Anderson also believes he has got enough matches in him to surpass Sir Alastair Cook’s record