England v India: If Jimmy Anderson does get banned he could do with the rest

Fast bowler embodies the craziness of the relentless schedule which is now established for England cricketers
Click to follow
The Independent Online

In the summer of 1973, Geoff Arnold bowled 1,861 balls in Test matches for England. No seam bowler before or since has delivered more. It was hardly a one-off, because in the preceding winter he delivered 1,455 balls.

It was a workrate that merited his nickname "Horse" (actually from his initials GG). But it almost pales by comparison with what Jimmy Anderson has done these past five years for England. Were he of equine extraction, there would be a strong case for cruelty charges being brought under at least Level Three of the ICC Code of Conduct.

Anderson, of course, is facing suspension after India said he physically assaulted Ravi Jadeja in the Second Test at Lord's last week. If the Burnley Express looks increasingly weary and irritable, his contribution to England may explain why. Anderson, more than any other player, embodies the craziness of the relentless schedule which is now established for England cricketers.

In return, they have never been better rewarded. It is probable that no England fast bowler in history has earned the sort of wages that Anderson is on. But no England fast bowler in history has worked as hard or bowled as much.

In each of the six home seasons starting in 2009, Anderson has bowled more than 1,200 balls in Tests. This summer his output has already reached 1,235 with three matches still to play. But he has also been expected to perform in the winter. Only once, in 2009-10, has he bowled fewer than 1,000 balls.

In between and on top, there have been one-day internationals. All this has allowed Anderson to become England's greatest wicket-taker across all formats of the game, and he is only 20 wickets short of finally overhauling Ian Botham's record of 383 Test wickets for England, which has stood for 22 years.

But the price he has paid is there in Anderson's eyes and in the manner he conducts himself. He is a man who perpetually wants to needle opponents, who gives no impression of enjoying the game despite being one of the most skilful manipulators of a cricket ball to have worn an England shirt.

The compressed programme of this summer's series against India has brought the matter to a head: five Test matches in 42 days, as well as the two already played against Sri Lanka.

A couple of generations have passed since fast bowlers used to deliver 1,000 overs a season – or say they did. They could not understand what all the fuss was about as the years went by. But those overs were frequently bowled in the pleasant backwater of the County Championship.

True, an England seamer might have to return to his county to play in two or three matches between Tests, but he did not have to come in at full tilt. Often it was a case of turning the arm over. Anderson's overs have all been bowled in the glare of the spotlight. There are no breaks in the ferocity of it. All his work is done at the top level, and the figures show that rotation is an occasional visitor in his life.

He has played 26 successive Tests since being rested in 2012 against West Indies, which, admittedly, he did not like. The record among fast bowlers for consecutive appearances is Matthew Hoggard's 40 between March 2004 and December 2006, in which he bowled 1,346 overs.

In the last World Cup in India in 2011 Anderson looked done in by the end. During a match against Bangladesh in Dhaka, which England lost, the camera panned on to him as he prepared to bowl once more and he looked as though he was auditioning to be the portrait of Dorian Gray.

His demeanour has gone from grumpy to surly. What was once almost endearing is now annoying. Without prejudging his Level Three charge under the ICC Code of Conduct which is to be held on Friday, he appears to be on the opposition's case perpetually.

He is a mild-mannered, reserved and deceptively clued-up chap off the field, but these days seems to play with a snarl and never a smile. Anderson's skill in England's cause cannot be doubted. Part of the reason England are not winning is because they have expected too much of Anderson and his like.