Jimmy Anderson: More successful in English conditions

Despite Jimmy Anderson’s lack of five-wicket hauls in the subcontinent, his achievement of capturing 600 wickets deserves hearty applause from cricket lovers because seldom has one seen a bowler who can move the ball both ways like he does.

Jimmy Anderson has has signalled his intentions of playing till the Ashes series in Australia next winter.   -  Getty Images

Jimmy Anderson has achieved what new ball bowlers hadn’t before and that was to scale the 600 wickets peak in Test cricket.

There are three bowlers ahead of him and they are all spinners and that’s why his efforts are all the more remarkable. Fast bowlers are more prone to injury because of the effort they put into hurling the ball with speed towards the batsman, about 20 yards away. If in the act of doing so, the bowler doesn’t quite get the foothold then the chances of injury from the ankle upwards to the sides are far greater than for a spinner. That’s why you seldom see a fast bowler with a career span that goes beyond 10 to 12 years.

Only the great and very fit ones go more than that and to think that Anderson has been at it for around 17 years tells you much more about his fitness than mere stats would. Yes, he has missed Test matches and, in fact, hardly played any Test cricket last summer in England. If he hadn’t missed so many games he could well have been closer to 700 wickets now. He is 38 but has signalled his intentions of playing till the Ashes series in Australia next winter and if he plays all the games till then, he could well get close to the 700-wicket mark, which is his next target.

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Michael Holding summed his efforts up succinctly saying he was more successful in English conditions and his record testifies to that. Critics particularly in England and Australia define greatness for batsmen if they have scored centuries in their countries. According to them it doesn’t matter how many runs and hundreds a batsman has got elsewhere but if he hasn’t got them in England and Australia then he cannot be considered a great player. This is understandable to some extent because the weather and grassy pitches in England help the bowlers to swing the ball in the air and seam it off the pitch. The hard pitches in Australia get the ball to travel quickly off the surface as also helping it to bounce a lot more. Batting therefore is definitely challenging in these conditions.

However, it is even more of a challenge on the dry pitches in the subcontinent where the ball grips and turns sharply and can often keep low too. Strangely though, if a batsman from these countries doesn’t score runs in the subcontinent nobody questions his greatness as when a subcontinent batsman fails in England or Australia. Then these critics will be saying he can’t play fast bowling and swinging deliveries. So if you can’t play spin, that’s ok, but it’s not so if you can’t score in England and Australia!

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Same with the bowling. Just like a batsman’s calibre is to be judged on the pitches in England and Australia so should a fast bowler’s class be judged on how he bowls on spin friendly pitches. Yet, somehow this line of thinking never seems to apply to the English and Australian players.

This brings us to whether Jimmy Anderson’s lack of five-wicket hauls in the subcontinent means that he is not in the category of the greats. Let us not go too far back either. Virat Kohli had a forgettable tour of England in 2014 and so when he had an outstanding home series against England in 2016-17 the same Jimmy Anderson didn’t give him much credit and instead remarked, ‘let him come to England in 2018 and we will see’. See we all did, and what a splendid sight it was as Kohli reeled off centuries at will in English conditions and on their pitches to quieten all doubters. Anderson didn’t have much to say but then he has never had anything nice to say about the Indians ever since he was snubbed at the IPL auctions.

Be that as it may, his achievement of capturing 600 wickets deserves hearty applause from cricket lovers because seldom has one seen a bowler who can move the ball both ways like Anderson does.

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Right throughout the England-Pakistan Test series there were comments that young Pakistani batsman Babar Azam belongs to the Fab Five club of batsmen in the world. There is not the slightest doubt about the class of the Pakistani batsman and the time he has to play his shots, the range of his shots as well as the effortless and stylish way he plays them. But getting a couple of half-centuries, albeit in testing conditions, is not enough to be ranked among the best. He has to convert those into hundreds which will help his team put up bigger totals on the board. He has age on his side and with Younis Khan as the Pakistani batting coach, young Azam can only go higher.

What was intriguing was who according to the English commentators were the Fab Five. Three names would be universally accepted — those of Kohli, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson, but to find Joe Root’s name there is a surprise. Root has done precious little to be in this elite group for the past year or so and in fact has now gone about nine Test matches without a century. Surely that doesn’t qualify a batsman to be called fabulous even, if like Azam, he has the ability to be one. But then what else can one expect from a country where everything is the greatest while all others are rubbish.

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