James Anderson has rarely been compared to the wife of Basil Fawlty. But I’ve only ever seen the look he fired at Cricinfo’s Andrew Miller this week once before and that was on the face of the long-suffering Sybil as she prepared to take an umbrella to the useless builder O’Reilly.
Miller was well within his rights to probe England’s highest Test wicket-taker of all time over the shoulder injury that ruled him out of the tour to Bangladesh and he did get more than a few penn’orth of change out of the 34-year-old when he suggested the time might have come to pick and choose his commitments in order to extend his career as long as possible.
“No. I don’t think like that at all,” said Anderson, “I don’t think (a couple of injuries) is going to deter me from wanting to play in every single game that I possibly can. I’m sure the management and the medical team will have different opinions to me, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it down the line.”
Anderson was forceful but similarly accommodating when insisting he would be fit enough to be “involved” in the series against India that follows.
But it was Anderson’s reaction to Miller’s next question that promoted the face-like-thunder that was the last thing O’Reilly saw before the umbrella hit him.
“But, are you slightly concerned that you know you body is maybe letting you down a little bit…
“No,” he interrupted sharply, eyes narrowing. “Not at all….”
Those whose job it is to pose the unpleasant question do not do so for fun and they know the risks.
One of my own experiences of touching a nerve rebounded in particularly spectacular fashion, when on April 9 2004, during the Press conference prior to the final Test between West Indies and England in Antigua, I asked Brian Lara whether, in view of his shaky form in the series this far, he was concerned (that word again) that his great genius might be on the wane. Three days later West Indies declared their first innings closed at 751-5 with Lara not out on 400, which was then, and still remains, the highest score in the whole history of Test cricket.
On two separate occasions Anderson has shown just how much he loves the idea of being rested for Test matches in which when he believes he is fit to play.
Back in 2012 he went into the mother of all sulks when, with the series already won, coach Andy Flower pulled him for the third Test against West Indies at Edgbaston and his mood was not much happier when he was told by the selectors he would not be playing in the first Test of this summer’s series against Pakistan at Lord’s.
Bearing in mind he has not bowled in competitive cricket since the fourth Test of the series at the Oval in August and has missed four of England ‘s last 16 Tests, it was surely not unreasonable for Andrew Strauss, the director of England cricket, to suggest the leader of the attack’s workload would need to be managed between now and the next Ashes series a year hence.
But try telling Anderson all that, as Miller did this week and see where it gets you. Talk about rage against the dying of the light.
For the reason he rails against the suggestion that any of the above means they should be preparing him for the knacker’s yard is the same as it ever was; to him, playing, bowling and taking wickets for England is as good as it gets.
And if anyone wants him to stop they’ll have to get past Sybil Fawlty first.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, October 7 2016
Subscribe to the digital edition of The Cricket Paper here