Anderson set to join up with England squad
England have received a significant boost with the news that James Anderson will be able to join their Test squad in India almost immediately. Anderson, England’s leading Test wicket-taker, has not bowled since August after suffering from a shoulder injury and was omitted from the original tour squad with the proviso that he would be recalled if he was able to prove his fitness.
He returned to bowling a couple of weeks ago and has come through every test and scan before being cleared for the trip. He is now expected to join up with the rest of the squad ahead of the first Test in Rajkot, which starts on Wednesday, and could be considered for the second Test in Visakhapatnam, starting on November 17.
Hopes of arranging a warm-up game for Anderson have been abandoned, though. While the England camp have explored the possibility of finding Anderson a club game in India to play in with a view to establishing his match fitness, it is understood that the plans were vetoed on security grounds. England’s security advisors remain keen to keep the squad together at all times in order not to dissipate their protection detail.
His return will still come as a huge relief to Alastair Cook. While Anderson may have lost some of the pace he had when proving so influential on the 2012 tour – MS Dhoni rated him “the difference between the two teams” – his control remains exceptional and he has an impressive package of skills. In 17 Tests in Asia, he has taken 55 wickets at an average of 28.29. Under Cook’s captaincy, that record is 25 wickets from seven Tests at an average of 22.64. He claimed 12 in the 2012 series.
While it was the batsmen that most obviously let England down on the last day in Dhaka, it may also be relevant that England lost the first Test Cook has captained (and that is 54 in total) without either Anderson or Stuart Broad in his side.
“It’s really good news,” Cook said. “He’s probably about a week ahead of where we thought he would be. He’s worked incredibly hard to get back. He’s got the all clear. Now he needs to come out here and acclimatise and get some overs in the nets.”
It is a brave move from Anderson, too. Some bowlers in his position might look at such a tour, on pitches offering them little and against a dauntingly strong batting line-up, and conclude they might be better conserving themselves until the start of the English season and more friendly conditions. But that is not Anderson’s way.
Whether he can retain his outstanding record against Virat Kohli remains to be seen. For a batsman of such obvious class, Kohli has an oddly modest Test record against England – he averages just 20.12 after nine Tests against them – with Anderson having dismissed him five times at an average of 15.40. While the suspicion remains that this will be the series that the dam breaks and Kohli corrects that record, Anderson’s experience of the conditions and ability to unpick batsmen’s techniques could prove an asset even before he returns to the team.
“It’s great that he’s put the effort in,” Cook said. “Rather than maybe taking the easy option and coming back in July, he wants to make a difference in this series.
“His experience of knowing how to take wickets in these conditions and passing that experience on to the bowlers will be great. He and Stuart Broad are big leaders of this bowling attack. They’ve done it since probably 2008 or 2009. They’ve been pushing this side forward and leading the bowlers. The number of wickets they’ve taken in all conditions is credit to their skills. It’s great to have them back and that experience will only help the other guys.
“It’s certainly not ideal he hasn’t had a warm-up game. But if there’s one person who could do it, it’s Jimmy. He’s well aware of that challenge. He’s come back so much quicker than we thought he would. He’s up for this. He’s not just coming here to make up the numbers. Is it ideal? No. We’ve tried to find him a bit of cricket somewhere just to get some miles and overs in his legs, but we can’t. So we’ll just have to make do and we’ll see what state he’s in.”
It is possible that Anderson’s return could alter the balance of England’s attack. While it remains likely they will go into the first Test with three spinners and three seamers, they may be tempted to play four seamers later in the series. More realistically, though, Anderson’s return might provide the opportunity to rotate the likes of Broad or even Chris Woakes to help them through such a condensed five-Test series.
“Is there a chance of us going 4-2?” Cook said. “Yes, there is. But there’s also a very good chance of us going 3-3. It’s very hard to say without seeing the wicket.”
England travel from Mumbai to Rajkot on Sunday and will next train on Monday