For weeks, James Anderson has been taking the pretty return route from cloud nine back down to earth. It has been an inexorable journey, gathering steam through the beautiful islands of the Caribbean, and last weekend it seemed to have reached its destination.
Anderson, left out of the triumphant England Test team for all four matches, had pinned his hopes on a return for the one-day series, only to be omitted from that as well. At the moment when he was told, the trip must have seemed complete.
All he can do is hope he can impress enough in the nets to get into another winning team for the second or third matches here tomorrow and Sunday. Equally, since Brian Lara - whose coronation as King of Trinidad feels as if it will take place any day - is likely to return, there may be better games in which to resume plying your trade. Anderson reflected quietly and soberly yesterday on his winter so far. "It's been a long trip but that's the way it goes sometimes," he said. "You get bored and frustrated sometimes but you have to stay happy and gee the others up otherwise it could affect them."
Everybody must remember young Jimmy from Burnley. He was 20 when summoned by England to cover for injuries on the tour of Australia in late 2002. His impact was immediate and enormous. An unfeasibly economical bowling spell against Australia in Adelaide was followed by one against Pakistan in a troubled World Cup that lifted the hearts of a nation.
Under the Cape Town lights he swung England to a momentous victory, his full length deliveries whirring through hapless batsmen, and finishing with 4 for 29. It all continued in the English summer. He took five wickets on his Test debut, he became the first England bowler to take a one-day hat-trick.
Where would it end? The answer to that has been delivered in the past eight weeks. Anderson was marginal favourite for a Test place when the team left England but it was hardly astonishing when the nod went to Matthew Hoggard. After that, there was no way back in to the Test team. England's pace quartet was rampant.
But a place in the one-day team was his. It was noticeable that during the Test match at Antigua he was practising with the white one-day ball. His time was nigh. He had played in 27 of the last 28 matches. No questions, no pack drill. And when the team was announced in Georgetown, no Anderson.
"There was a bit of expectation," he said. "I was a little bit surprised. I'd played in Bangladesh and didn't think I'd done anything wrong. During the summer I've almost become a regular and then you start expecting it and maybe that's when things start to go wrong. You can never take things for granted, you've got to play every game as if it's your last."
The meteoric rise never went to Anderson's head. The truth was he had trouble getting his head round it. On cloud nine, it was like a dream. Just before the party embarked for the West Indies, he said that when he had watched video footage of his great deeds it seemed strange. "It was like it was some other guy from Burnley." He will return to the team on this tour, probably in one of the two back-to-back matches here this weekend. The schedule of six matches in 13 days will demand some rotation, especially for bowlers, no matter the state of the series.
Perversely, he knows he is a better bowler now than when he got into the England side. Troy Cooley, who has become a kind of fast bowling guru and Mike Watkinson, the Lancashire coach who was with England earlier in the winter, have helped him with his run-up and wrist position. "The only two games I played here I bowled a lot better than I did in the summer in any of the Tests," he said.
The papers here, for some reason, are not full of whether Anderson will return. King Brian is all over them. The Trinidad Guardian on Wednesday had different stories about Lara on pages one, two, three, five, six, seven and eight. A 40-page supplement was devoted to his life and times in the Express yesterday. He is under enormous pressure to play in his native land after his monumental 400 not out and Lara, as his batting testifies, knows everything about timing.Reuse content