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regular-article-logo Sunday, 14 April 2024

Pressed for pace, Jimmy loses steam: Posers on senior England pacer's relevance in team after stingless show

Young Yashasvi Jaiswal taking him on right through India’s second innings in the previous Test did take him by surprise, though James Anderson has had an experience in the past of Rishabh Pant’s pyrotechnics against him

Sayak Banerjee Calcutta Published 21.02.24, 08:16 AM
James Anderson

James Anderson File image

To carry on playing Test cricket even after 40 is in itself an achievement. And the 41-year-old James Anderson deserves many a doff of the hat as he keeps pulling through and is only four short of the 700-wicket milestone.

In due course of time, Anderson will probably reach the landmark. But will it happen in the ongoing series against India?

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That’s the question, especially after he looked completely ragged and almost clueless in the third Test in Rajkot, finishing the game with only a wicket across both innings.

Young Yashasvi Jaiswal taking him on right through India’s second innings in the previous Test did take him by surprise, though Anderson has had an experience in the past of Rishabh Pant’s pyrotechnics against him. But last Sunday, it was surprising that Anderson appeared to have totally run out of ideas and was just content on somehow completing the over in which Jaiswal clobbered him for a hat-trick of sixes.

That wasn’t at all Anderson-like.

Of course, cricketers having a poor game or two or a lean phase is common. As for Anderson, the Indian conditions have never been ideal for his kind of bowling, which is swing and seam-reliant.

Barring the 2012 tour, the last time England had won a Test series in India, Anderson’s success in Indian conditions has only been in patches. He did put up a decent show though in the second Test in Visakhapatnam, finishing with a game haul of five wickets and conceding only 76 runs.

But on the slow, flat wicket of Rajkot, Anderson looked absolutely toothless and that too in both innings. England did have the scope of restricting India to well below 400 in the first essay, but Anderson couldn’t pose problems even
for debutant keeper-batter Dhruv Jurel.

Obviously, he has lost pace over the years. When England had visited India three years ago, he did look much sharper. Now, if he keeps on coming up with spells lacking any kind of penetration, England could well be doomed for the remainder of this series.

In any case, they have an inexperienced bowling attack.

So then, does any message needs to be conveyed by captain Ben Stokes and
head coach Brendon McCullum to the fast bowler, who has an impeccable record in Test cricket? “Sometimes, a person’s record tends to
sugarcoat how he has been performing over the last few months,” former England left-arm spinner Monty Panesar, also an ex-teammate of Anderson, told The Telegraph on Tuesday.

“It’s like you’re allowed to have a lean patch since you’ve taken 696 Tests. That sugarcoats how you’ve been doing in the last nine to 10 months. No wonder Jimmy hasn’t actually been the Jimmy we know.

“But when someone boasts such a record, it’s very difficult to go up to him and query on his recent performances. Brendon needs to have the courage to say that to Jimmy. Maybe during a round of golf they can ask him, ‘Do you think you’re losing the nip? Are you being too anxious?’

“Jimmy’s losing that acceleration off the pitch... That snap of the ball off the pitch... Seems he’s running in quicker with a shorter run-up and trying to compensate through it,” Panesar, who played 50 Tests and took 167 wickets, explained.

Crosswords course

In the England dressing room, Panesar has seen Anderson solving crossword puzzles, something the latter used to do quite frequently to pull himself out of a tough situation.

“Crosswords are good for him. He loves puzzles as they help in mind stimulation, so he could surely try that out,” Panesar said.

Anderson needs 13 more scalps to go past Shane Warne (708) as the second-highest wicket-taker in Tests. Considering the volumes of faith England have in him, the opportunity to surpass Warne should be coming his way during the English summer against the West Indies and Sri Lanka.

That said, what will England do if Anderson fails to rediscover his rhythm and impact?

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