James Anderson has been England’s bowling spearhead in recent years © Getty Images
James Anderson, born on July 30, 1982, Anderson, is perhaps the most unnoticed among top echelons of English bowlers. Abhishek Mukherjee lists 11 things about the man who is fast approaching to become the highest wicket-taker.
James Michael Anderson can well be termed England’s Invisible Man. He has carried the English bowling attack almost on his shoulders (with some help from Stuart Broad) since the retirement of quartet who had helped regain the Ashes in 2005; he is catching up on Ian Botham’s tally of 383 Test wickets, the highest by any Englishman — and will perhaps reach there without anyone noticing.
Here, then, is a list of 11 things about the man.
Among sportspeople with several distinguished namesakes, Anderson would rank very highly. The name James Anderson is shared by a tennis player from Australia, a golfer from Scotland, an American football player, a basketball player from USA, a Paralympic swimmer from Britain, and — another cricketer who had played two First-Class matches for Oxford University in 1955.
Apart from that, there have been three actors (England, Scotland, and USA), a lyricist (English), three authors (one from England, two from USA), a painter (USA), a vocalist (USA), nine military officers at various levels, nine scientists in various streams, a Church of Scotland Minister (and Freemason), and many more who share the name James Anderson.
Not only is Anderson a constantly improving left-handed batsman, he is also a decent left-arm bowler, and fancies himself at left-arm spin. He bowled “proper left-arm spin” in his teens, bowls them in the nets, and had got Ian Bell with his left-arm spin in an exhibition match at Kingsmead. One of his wishes is to bowl left-arm spin at First-Class level.
To add to it, Anderson is quite annoyed with the fact that batsmen are allowed to play the switch hit without notice, but bowlers are not allowed to revert from right-arm over-the-wicket seam to left-arm round-the-wicket spin without informing the umpire.
3) Youngest Lancastrian to take a hat-trick
On May 14, 2003 Anderson became the youngest Lancashire cricketer to take a hat-trick at 20 years 288 days: he had Darren Robinson caught at gully by Alec Swann, bowled Nasser Hussain with an in-swinging yorker, and had Will Jefferson caught-behind by Warren Hegg in consecutive deliveries.
4) In support of LGBT
Anderson had posed in the nude inside Attitude in September, 2010, and was the first cricketer to do so — Britain’s largest-selling magazine for the homosexual — to ward off homophobia. He also sent out a simple message in an interview with BBC: “If there are any gay cricketers they should feel confident enough to come out because I don’t think there is any homophobia in cricket.”
5) Not taking eyes off
Anderson played a pivotal role in retaining the Ashes in 2010-11. In the first Test at The Gabba, he had an “exchange” with Shane Watson. At this point, Anderson recalled Michael Atherton’s advice: the bowler has to return to his bowling mark under such circumstances, which meant that “in one-upmanship, the batsman’s won.”
This, when it came to staring at each other, Watson stood there, and Anderson kept staring at him without a blink; then he started walking backwards to his bowling mark, without breaking the eye-contact. When he thought he had was going past Alastair Cook he gestured at him (without breaking the eye-contact) to throw the ball to him.
Anderson later wrote in Jimmy: My Story: “Cookie (Cook), having latched on to what I was doing, later informed me it was the most pressured he had ever felt executing an underarm throw! He just had my right hand, arched like a claw, to aim at but thankfully I managed to see the ball coming out of the corner of my eye, and maintained my necessary degree of cool by refusing to turn my head.”
6) The captain he never liked
Anderson had played 21 Tests under Michael Vaughan; he picked up 76 wickets at 34.46, which was certainly not excellent by his standards. Much later, in an interview with BBC in 2012, he expressed his opinion about Vaughan — a captain who had not been criticised by many, especially the Englishmen.
Anderson said: “Unfortunately, despite our cordiality now, I didn’t enjoy (Michael) Vaughan as a captain. A good captain should know how to talk to his team as individuals. I don’t think Vaughan ever had that in him — a major reason I’ve not held him in as high regard as others have. He was not as good a captain as others made out.”
Though he is quite amicable character (as he claims in his autobiography), mostly with his family (and close friends, which include Cook and Graeme Swann) Anderson is not quite the same once he steps on to the ground. During the 2013 Ashes, Joe Root gifted him a package: on opening it he found a t-shirt with the word GRUMPY written on it.
As per Wikipedia, “Owling is a variation on planking in which a person squats “like an owl” in a populated and uncommon area. Participants commonly make noises similar to an owl, to make the owl impression more realistic.”
Before the 2,000th Test (at Lord’s against India in 2011), Anderson, along with Stuart Broad and Steve Finn, resorted to Owling to relieve tension. While Broad and Finn chose more conventional locations, Anderson “owled” on the Lord’s balcony, no less.
9) The sledger
When Michael Clarke was fined 20% of his match fee for using the words “get ready for a broken f**king arm” to Anderson (the sentence was picked up by the stump microphone) as the latter came out to bat, Anderson himself came to Clarke’s defence, thus becoming one of the few cricketers to support sledging in public.
“Sledging made me what I am,” he told later in an interview with Chris Barrett of The Sydney Morning Herald. He had earlier told Robin Scott-Elliott of The Independent: “I can’t help sledging the Aussies.”
10) Certainly not the Casanova
While he is (as per my female colleagues) quite up-to-date with fashion — he even designs t-shirts — and is perhaps the most handsome English cricketer of late, he is not exactly the lady-killer. By his own admission: “I’m cr*p at talking to girls. I really need them to come and chat to me, but I’m learning a lot from the England guys.”
11) … and finally, a beard…
There exists a Twitter handle on James Anderson’s beard. Beat that. Here is a sample tweet:
(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)