Cricket Xtra: Jimmy's wicket tally as good as any in game's history

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On top of his game: Jimmy Anderson.

What happens when a fast bowler becomes the sixth most successful in the history of Test cricket? He is supposed to be hailed as a great, right? In most circumstances, that would be true. But when it comes to England’s James Anderson, the scenario is different.

First let’s look at the facts.

Anderson’s 443 Test wickets are the third most by any fast bowler. Only Glenn McGrath and Courtney Walsh have had more success than him. So logically, he should be seen as one of the finest seam bowlers the game has seen.

But strangely, there is a reluctance to even include him in conversations about the finest Test bowlers.

Maybe it is his nonchalant attitude, the permanent scowl on his face or habit of getting into a scuffle or two. Whatever the reasons, Jimmy is not adored by the masses.

Fair enough, he doesn’t have to be. Because it’s only the results that should matter. And Anderson has been delivering for 13 years.

While it is a fact that a majority of his wickets – 276 – have come at home, Anderson gave a few memorable efforts in tough conditions that helped England seal historic wins. First was the 2010-11 Ashes series in Australia. It was one of the best efforts by an England team while on tour and Anderson played a massive role in keeping the Australian batting under constant pressure. While Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott churnedout the centuries, you need wickets to win Tests and Anderson led the way with 24 scalps from five Tests.

England’s 3-1 series win simply wouldn’t have happened without Anderson.

Then in the following season, Anderson visited a country that was considered by many touring teams as a graveyard for traditional fast bowlers – India. England stumbled in the first Test, losing by nine wickets and the writing seemed to be on the wall with three more matches to go. But Anderson didn’t throw in the towel.

While the record books say that he only managed 12 wickets in four Tests, the impact of his tenacious line and workload (he bowled 126.4 overs which was second only to spinners Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar who bowled more than 180) was huge. England’s 2-1 win was one of the finest comebacks seen in the subcontinent.

For India captain MS Dhoni, it was Anderson who turned the tide in England’s favour.

“I felt Anderson bowled well throughout the series on wickets where there was not much help for the fast bowlers. He kept the batsmen guessing.

The major difference between the two sides was Anderson,” Dhoni had said.

It is perplexing that despite overcoming a serious back injury and transforming himself into an exemplary swing bowler, some unimpressive numbers – like his 25 scalps from eight Tests in South Africa – are labelled as shortcomings.

But what about his 22 wickets on the super dry wickets in UAE from six Tests at an average of less than 21?

And if we take such stats into account without considering the overall impact a bowler has had on the game, it can also be said that Australia’s Dennis Lillee, who is acknowledged as a legend, never set foot in India to play a Test and took six wickets in all on Asian pitches. If Lillee, who played almost exclusively at home or in England, can be talked about in glowing terms then Anderson surely deserves a place at the table.

Anderson’s plight reminds me how the cricketing world viewed the contributions of Jacques Kallis.

Despite more than 25,000 international runs, 550 wickets and 300 catches, Kallis didn’t receive the same admiration as some other cricketers, either batsmen or all-rounders.

Even so, it doesn’t reduce the player’s stature in the history book. India batsman VVS Laxman once said that while his fellow star batsmen got all the accolades, he was happy to get the respect of the dressing room. And Anderson knows that he commands the respect of contemporary players.

The rest of us can keep debating.

Different parameters

The first Test between England and Sri Lanka finished inside three days. But as has become the norm, no questions were asked about the state of the pitch and if it was too helpful for fast bowlers. Last year’s Test series between India and South Africa too followed a similar pattern where teams struggled to cross 250 and two matches finished well before the fourth day.

I will never understand why variable bounce and square turners are considered unfair for the batsmen but fast bowlers moving the ball all over the place and even hitting the batsmen on the body on quick surfaces is seen as a great spectacle.

A challenge is a challenge and if Anderson and Stuart Broad setting up matches during a single spell under overcast conditions is applauded, then the feats on Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja on ‘dust bowls’ should not be looked down upon.

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#360view: Chris Gayle needs to get his act together

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Chris Gayle.

Chris Gayle has a problem.

There is no doubt about that. I am not an expert who can categorise the issue but it doesn’t take a qualified professional to know that his actions do not fall within the parameters of socially acceptable behaviour.

Be it his flirtatious interaction with an Australian TV presenter during the Big Bash T20 tournament or the latest interview with The Times, Gayle has made it a habit of outraging the senses with crass remarks.

There is probably no point in talking to Gayle about the virtues of behaving like a gentleman or treating women with respect because no one knows if he is actually serious about what he has said or if he thinks all of it is one big joke.

What can be stated, however, is that Gayle is losing a lot of respect he had accumulated over the years with his competitive outlook, easygoing nature and incredible batting prowess.

He has always been adored by fans and players across the world.

Crowds throng the stadiums to watch Gayle send the ball sailing into the stands and occasionally, lighten the mood with his cheerful demeanour.

But now when we talk about Gayle, ‘fun’ is not the first thing that comes to mind. Because it ain’t funny anymore.

There was a time when Gayle had the sympathy of the cricketing world due to his congenital heart condition that forced him to abort many innings mid-way. Irregular heartbeats where common during the early part of Gayle’s career.

Heart surgery in 2005 gave him a fresh lease of life and Gayle hasn’t looked back since. He became the biggest draw in the shortest format of the game and dazzled fans in various T20 leagues with his immense talent.

But that seems like another era.

What we have now is a batsman not in the best of form, who has serious fitness issues and plays just one format of the game.

Gayle is 36 and has become a specialist T20 batsman who travels from one league to the other, wherever that may be.

But this is not the same Gayle of 2010. The shots are a bit more laboured, the running even more lethargic and the aura diminished.

Following his brilliant century during the World T20 in India, Gayle had eight straight single digit scores in T20 matches.

He was even benched by the Royal Challengers Bangalore. Gayle did return to the playing XI and deliver in consecutive innings but you get a feeling the magic is waning.

Big Bash organisers are already under pressure to set an example and not have Gayle in their league. And if he continues to display such irresponsible, even hurtful, behavior then it could hit him where it hurts the most – T20 contracts.

All it takes is one league to take action and Gayle’s T20 juggernaut could derail quickly.

When you are a T20 journeyman, fitness and reputation mean everything. Gayle is already faltering on one count and making a mockery of the second.

And if he doesn’t get his act together, the ‘Universe Boss’ will find the world a very lonely place.

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Anurag Thakur set to be named new BCCI president

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Man in charge: Anurag Thakur.

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said in a statement that Thakur, 41, was the “only” nomination and would be announced as its new chief following a meeting in Mumbai Sunday.

“He will be officially declared elected as the President of the BCCI for the remaining term 2014- 17, tomorrow at the Special General Meeting,” said the statement.

Thakur, who resigned as the secretary of the board, got the signatures of all six ‘East Zone’ units in his nomination form as he completed the formalities in the presence of former India captain and Bengal association president Sourav Ganguly in Mumbai.

According to the BCCI constitution, the president is elected by a rotational system where each of the five zones is given a chance to put their candidate forward.

Thakur, who is a member of parliament for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and a close ally of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, succeeds Shashank Manohar who stepped down earlier this month to become the first independent chairman of the International Cricket Council (ICC).

Meanwhile, Manohar revealed that he quit the BCCI post as he could not implement the Supreme Court-mandated recommendations regarding the restructuring of the board.

“I did whatever was good and in the interest of the board even before the Lodha committee recommendations were given. I’m not a person who is capable of implementing them,” Manohar said in Mumbai.

“There may be more capable people in this board than me who can implement these. I can’t see an organisation being destroyed which has been built by so many persons,” he said.

“When I took over this board, the Lodha committee work was in progress. Even before the recommendations came many of them had already been implemented.

Seventy five per cent of the recommendations of the committee are very good. But I have reservations about 4-5 recommendations which are not in the interest of the board.”

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