James Anderson: Angry England bowler aims a few arrows at critics
England bowler tells Matt Fearon that Broad controversy should not detract from latest Ashes glory
Tuesday 03 September 2013
How would you celebrate winning the Ashes and becoming England's second highest wicket taker in Test cricket history: a night in Boujis with Cristal champagne and the boys, a convertible supercar or a watch chunky enough to break wrists? If you're James Anderson, it turns out the answer is none of the above.
"I've built a vegetable patch in my back garden; I'm actually more stiff now from gardening than I am from the cricket." That revelation brings us neatly on to the controversial subject of watering The Kia Oval grass. According to The Ecologist magazine, "urine makes for a surprisingly good fertiliser"… But Anderson won't be drawn any further on the issue of the properties of urine and so we move on.
The 31-year-old Lancastrian is, though, in reflective mood when we meet in a warehouse in Salford just a misdirected bouncer away from his Burnley birthplace. But first he wants to get something off his chest.
"Without dragging it up – the stuff about walking – I find it a little bit hypocritical of some ex-players to comment on it," says Anderson leaning forward, bristling as if at the top of his run-up. "You watch a lot of cricket back then and they never walked."
The incident that has raised Anderson's ire was the media reaction to Stuart Broad's refusal to walk on the third day of the first Test. At the time, former West Indian fast bowler and Sky Sports commentary box veteran Michael Holding led calls for Broad to be suspended. Nonsense, says his new-ball partner.
"I've watched the Ashes channel and even last night Nasser Hussain smashed one and didn't walk. There was a big hoo-ha about it and the commentator's saying that it's his right. You can't then all of sudden change your mind and say it's wrong for another person to stand there."
In defence of the "ex-players", most of the moralising came from within the ranks of the written press for whom the heat of a Test-match battle was only ever a distant dream. And to be fair to the aforementioned Hussain, he had this to say about Broad's refusal to walk: "I thought it took incredible courage for Broad to stay there like that – the audacity of the man."
So James, what about the players' so-called "wider responsibility to the game"? "At the end of the day, we're trying to win a game of cricket," is his curt response. Anderson later admits, "Cooky [Alastair Cook] did tell me once that if I'm grumpy at breakfast then he knows that I'm going to bowl well that day." If that is the case then pity the Strongbow drinker who that afternoon had the misfortune to earn the chance to face six of the best from England's record-breaking paceman.
The description "grumpy" does Anderson a disservice, he's more like temporarily indignant. For the rest of the interview, he relaxes back in his chair; considers each question like a nightwatchman measuring the merits of each ball in the day's final over; he does not bristle but relaxes like a man with more international wickets than any other Englishman – dead or alive – and three successive Ashes victories to his name.
"I've gone full circle in this England team," Anderson says. "2006-07 in Australia, all just bad memories [England were whitewashed 5-0]; 2009, we weren't really expected to win [England won 2-1]; 2010-11 we hadn't won in Australia for 24 years and though people thought we had a good chance, they never actually expected us to win [England won 3-1]; and, this series has been different in that respect, everyone just thought we were going to wipe the floor with them. It's been another challenge for us to set our own expectations."
And did you live up to your own expectations? "I know that I can perform better than I did, more consistently, and that's exciting as there's a few players, me included, that can say that about themselves."
There was at least one spell when Anderson bowled as well as he knows he can and it set the tone for the whole of the Ashes: England winning crucial sessions through spells of individual excellence. On the last day of the first Test at Trent Bridge, he claimed three wickets before lunch – all caught at first slip – for 29 runs from 13 uninterrupted overs. He then returned after a feed to seal an England win by just 14 runs with his 10th wicket of the Test. Anderson recalls it like it was.
"I got into a really good rhythm early on with the old ball. Then, five overs into my spell I got the new ball, it's not often that you get to do that as generally you've got others guys bowling with the old ball until the new ball comes.
"I felt like I was going to get a wicket with every ball. When you're in that frame of mind you just want the captain to keep you on and luckily for me he did. As it went on, we'd just look at each other at the end of each over, Alastair would be like 'do you want one more?' and I'd be like, 'yeah, I want one more'. It just carried on like that at the end of every over, just one more, just one more, just one more."
That "one more" refrain has become "no more", for now. Anderson has been rested from the five-match one-day series against Australia that starts this Friday.
"It's frustrating that the schedule is so jam-packed," he says. "No one likes missing cricket but it's good that I've now got a chance to recharge and reflect on what we achieved and also look forward."
What cannot be improved, according to Anderson, is England's sledging: "When it comes to the verbals, we used it pretty well this series. I think our job in Australia will be to keep them as quiet as possible."
The tongue sharpening can wait for November's first Test in Brisbane. For now Anderson's only job is to sharpen his trowel and tend to that vegetable patch.
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