The evergreen James Anderson would feature in his first Test after he turned 40, his 173rd overall against South Africa at Lord’s on Wednesday, but the versatile seamer says he does not feel the age. “It is just a number next to my name, it is not how I feel. I don’t feel old or that I’m slowing down. I don’t have any personal goals, I just want to keep enjoying my cricket,” he said on Monday.
England are on a high after hammering New Zealand and beating India in a one-off Test. The Brendon McCullum-led regime had a restorative effect on the team as well as Anderson and his long-time accomplice Stuart Broad, both who were seen redundant after the Test series loss to West Indies early this year.”I felt really invigorated by the way we were asked to bowl as a bowling group. It was a change of mindset. I loved the aggressive nature of it and I’m looking forward to being a part of it,” he observed.
But Anderson—he would become England’s first frontline seamer in their fifth decade to do so in Test cricket since Les Jackson against Australia in 1961 aged 40 years and 125 days—does not see anyone apart from Broad playing till he turns 40, as he fears Test cricket would be devoured by franchise cricket. “Maybe Broady. But definitely not after that, because no one will be stupid enough. Everything that has gone on in the world with franchise cricket, the Hundred, the short forms of the game, I can’t see anyone wanting to play Test cricket for this long,” he opined.
He put forward the case of Trent Boult, who refused to sign New Zealand board’s central contract so that he could focus on the T20 league circuit, where his signature is most sought. “It represents a landmark moment because he is such a high-profile international player and I can definitely see it happening more and more, particularly with bowlers,” he said.
He fears it could become a trend.“It does because Test cricket will probably bear the brunt of it. The easiest thing to do for bowlers is to bowl four overs or 20 balls. It takes nothing out of you. And if you’re getting paid just as well it probably makes sense – it will tempt more people than not,” he said.
On the contrary, one of the reasons for his longevity, he admitted, was that he was overlooked from white-ball cricket after the abysmal 2015 World Cup.
“I think Broady will say the same: that we were fortunate our white-ball careers pretty much ended after that World Cup and we could focus on red-ball cricket. That worked out great for us. In the future, I can see it definitely being the other way round – with people picking and choosing their formats, tours, whatever it might be,” he reflected.
England’s ultra-aggressive method could draw more audience to the longest format of the game, but even otherwise, the format should be preserved and set as the benchmark in cricket. Even if we didn’t play this way, I still think Test cricket is an amazing format. I hope people see it and want to be a part of it, growing up wanting to play Test cricket. Our job and responsibility as Test cricketers is to promote the game and encourage as many people as possible to watch it and play it when they get older,” he said.
He said he is proud of his endurance in Test cricket. “I feel proud to have got to where I have. I feel fortunate as well that I’ve still got the love for the game and the desire to get better and still do the training and the nets and whatever else that comes with it,” he said.
His passion for the game remains undiminished. “With a lot of people that’s the first thing that goes, and that’s when you start slowing down and winding down. But for me, I feel like that passion is still there. So I feel fortunate for that. I feel fortunate that my body’s still functioning properly and allowing me to do the job that I love,” he said.