Thursday, May 17, 2012

Jimmy Anderson Raring to go Against West Indies

Very nearly 9 years ago to the day, a young Lancastrian with a wild mane that made KP's "badger mullet" look like a short back n' sides burst onto the international scene. His name was James Michael Anderson and his objective was to become the finest fast bowler his country would see for a generation. 

Anderson was an instant England success taking a five wicket haul on debut against Zimbabwe at Lords in 2003. He was an archetypal England county cricketer, bowling with swing at a decent lick of pace, taking a shed load of wickets in the process.

Things obviously progressed apace for the Burnley Express until England's coaches decided to meddle with his unconventional bowling action. Duncan Fletcher and then bowling coach Troy Cooley believed his action could cause injury later in his career, but a drastic re-engineering of his technique brought about, ironically, an injury in the shape of a stress fracture to the back. 

Anderson suffered a four month injury layoff but with time, reverting back to his old technique and the help of subsequent bowling coach Ottis Gibson, now West Windies coach ironically (Alanis Morrisette would love this story...) Anderson re-discovered the swing that had brought him so much success in the past. 

Talking about his injury to BBC chief sports writer Tom Fordyce, Anderson said, "It's difficult enough bowling when you're not thinking about your action, but when you're thinking about where your arms and legs are going, it's impossible"

Once he had his groove back on of course Anderson was in business, and since that period he's never looked back, having taken 258 wickets for his country in his career to date.

On the doomed 2006 tour of Australia Anderson struggled, conceding 81 runs for every wicket he took. He was unplayable in British conditions, swinging balls around corners at times, but without that movement and assistance on foreign soil the Lancastrian struggled for consistency and found it harder to take wickets.

As a result, Anderson went away and mastered the art of reverse swing, learnt how to bowl with a scrambled seam and worked on bowling a disciplined, probing line outside off stump so that at the very least he could be tight and consistent when away from Blighty. 

The first tour for the remodelled James Anderson was Australia 2010 and as we all know now, Anderson and Co blew the opposition away, bowling as a unit and building pressure on their hosts to almost unbearable levels. The Aussies expected more inconsistency from a bowler they expected to struggle once more, what they got was a bowler who could move the ball both ways off the seam and off the pitch. He was now the finished article as world class fast bowlers go, a level he has remained at ever since.

The West Indies are next up for England with the first test beginning at Lords on Thursday. Anderson goes into game not only the spearhead of the best fast bowling unit in world cricket but also as the ECB's Cricketer of the Year having picked up the award at Lords earlier this week - richly deserved as I'm sure you will all agree.

Anderson will lead the line as he has done with aplomb for the past 2 years now, ably assisted by Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan or perhaps Steven Finn at the home of cricket. They will hunt as a pack and push the West Indies batsmen to the limits of concentration. 

Plus the ball will seam, and Jimmy will love that of course.

Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

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