We, humans, like to imitate. When it comes to cricket, you see many. Kids on roads, teens on the terrace. You see them everywhere. Starting from the latest sensation Bumrah to Warne. Talking about bowling actions, Anderson’s action, bowling like him is damndest. It’s hard. You probably end up with an injury. Even if you imitate the action, as you bend your head down, you might well miss your landing, breaking your back but Anderson keeps doing it. For years.
The funny thing is that he picked up a fracture only when he tried to change his action. It took him years to get back to his original action and there is no looking back.
The 70-over-old duke ball smile at him as he catches it from his captain. The ball looks happy as if it reached it’s home after a long day. May be, Anderson’s arm was its home. He runs in, and when he reaches the crease, his shoulders go diagonal to the batter then he jumps, his hands move quickly to touch his right shoulder, comes back. As he lands, his right foot turns effectively towards his right while his left leg and his left-hand stay parallel. Now, he twists his body towards left as he takes his right hand behind to create gallop. As he delivers the ball, his head goes down, metres over his front toe and it will go further down during the follow-through. He doesn’t see where the ball goes but sees the pitch, adjacent. Maybe, he treated the duke very well that it dances according to Anderson’s mood after kissing the lush-green pitch. There is a duet in between with the batter doing the guest honours while the keeper painting the final picture. The reverse swing. The batter knows what they had signed for. The batter knows it is going to reverse. Unfortunately, they don’t have a tool to slow down to see the swing. When the ball reaches them, they already went through with the shot. When they think of having a second thought, they are forced to come back to reality, thanks to the roar from Anderson.
There are two Anderson. One on and other off the field. The ‘On-field’ Anderson is aggressive, fierce, sledges his opponents, his own teammates, abuses, call out names, tries to make his opponent bleed with bouncers, he loves to fight but that what get him going. He does this deliberately. He wants to look bad so that the competition is challenging. Dravid doesn’t insist punishment but for Anderson’s behaviour, he once did. Making Dravid angry is probably Anderson’s biggest achievements other than picking up wickets. Talking about wickets, normal players don’t fancy him. He goes for the stars, legends. He tries to make them his bunny and he almost did. The greats Sachin Tendulkar and Virat Kohli are two of his semi-bunnies.
The off-field Anderson is the funniest guy. His wittiness and the sense of humour makes him the favourite wherever he goes. He is shy, soft-spoken and you cannot hear him speak if you stand in the last row even with a mic on. The off-field Anderson probably would hate his other, the on-field Anderson, if they were two different people- James and Jimmy.
Anderson doesn’t just turn up and bowl. He does the groundwork, understands the batter’s weakness and tries to expose them ruthlessly, constantly hitting the right spot.
It’s an open secret that he loves out-swingers more than the in-swingers but with time, his preparations improved along with his fitness. He came around the wicket for the left-handers, he bowled wider than he normally does, he bent down even more to create that extra whip, and of course, the split-finger delivery.
When the whole world wait for James to turn into Jimmy, the batters will have an extra problem as they can’t identify when Jimmy would turn in and bowl those late inswingers after a series of outswingers.
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