Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Can Anderson succeed in Australia?
At present, one of the frequently debated topics in cricket is, can England's pace attack succeed in Australia and more so, can Anderson succeed in Australia. The general feeling is, if the pitch isn't helping the swing bowlers, he is ineffective. So, just let us have a look at Anderson's career.
His critics would just point to his high average away from home and say that he isn't good enough on flat tracks, but averages don't tell everything. If I look at Anderson's career, one can safely say that England's management haven't handled him that well. His action was changed three times and that is absurd as one can't tinker with a young bowler's action all the time. Ironically, in the end, he got injured due to the change in his action. He was also made to play, when he wasn't match fit in Australia 06/07 and South Africa in 04/05.
If I look at the tours of Australia and South Africa more elaborately, I can see some interesting facts. Jimmy Anderson didn't play a single match for five months before the tour of South Africa in 04/05 yet, Fletcher and co. made him play at Johannesburg and as expected he failed. Before the Ashes in 06/07, Anderson had got injured, so he was coming back into the team. Interestingly, between March 2006 to November 2006, Anderson had bowled just 29 overs in a fc game played in England and 24.1 overs in a warm up game in Australia. So, England were expecting a bowler, who had bowled just over 50 overs to do the job on a flat track like Adelaide! He should have played a few more warm up matches in Australia and could have played in the third test at Perth which did help the quicker bowlers in that series, but that wasn't to be. Anderson is also a swing bowler and if he is picked, likely should be given the new ball, but in half of his tests under Fetcher and company, he was bowling as a first change bowler. Leave alone the fact that he wasn't match fit, but nothing can beat the fact that Anderson was the drinks carrier for 24 tests before he got a decent run in the side in 08 and during that time Fletcher didn't allow Anderson to play CC either. I just don't see anything wrong in saying that Anderson was messed up early in his career.
Since 08, he has been given a decent run in the side and has done better as in his last 31 tests, he has got 123 wickets at an average of 28.4 which shows that he has improved. Away from home, he bowled reasonably well in the Caribbean especially, when one thinks of the fact that wickets were extremely flat in the Caribbean. The tracks at Barbados, Trinidad, and Antigua had nothing in it for the bowlers and anyone, who averaged around 35 in that series would have been happy. The only track that offered a bit of tennis ball bounce in that series was Jamaica, but Anderson didn't play at Jamaica yet, was able to average around 35 which is pretty good. I still think that his spell in the second innings at Trinidad was one of the better spells of that tour. In South Africa, everyone said to me that Harmison shouldn't have been left out and Anderson would get punished. In the end, at his peak Harmison averaged 73 in South Africa in 04/05, but Anderson averaged 34 in 09/10 and he was troubled by a troublesome knee problem in South Africa. I know that many may point to his below average performance in India in 08/09 but that was the series in which the coach seemed to be obsessed with bowlers bowling short and as expected, on slow Indian tracks bowlers got smashed around yet, Anderson was a touch better than Broad and surely Harmison.
So, if I look at the series against Australia, I would say that he can do reasonably well. Yes, it would be unrealistic on my part to expect him to average in low 20's as leaving Steyn, most bowlers from visiting teams haven't done well in the last 10 years in Australia, but I think he can average around 30 in Australia.
First of all, the wickets in Australia in the last two or three years have assisted the quicker bowlers more as tracks like Brisbane and Perth have offered a bit more help than what we used to see when they had great flat wicket bowlers like McGrath and Dizzy. I have left out the Sydney ground as last year, it did help the quicker bowlers mainly because there was lots of rain during that time and as a result, there was more moisture in the wicket. Secondly, Anderson has learnt to reverse swing the old ball, so this time around, should do ok on that flat track at Adelaide.
The worry with Anderson or even England's pace attack in general is, if things aren't going their way, the bowlers can lose their patience very quickly. Another key point can be, when Anderson looks for the inswinger, he tends to swing it too much and it just beats everything. Just look at Steyn, who looks to bowl the outswinger and the one that goes straight on to get the wicket. Anderson can even look to bowl a touch fuller and look for yorkers with the old ball. Yes, he can reverse it, but seems to have forgotten that he could bowl a fine yorker in his younger days. Nowadays, he is also trying to bowl around the wicket which isn't a bad tactic as the lefthanders would be forced to play at his deliveries.
Finally, it is hard to expect any quick bowler to do very well in Australia as it isn't easy to take wickets against Australia in Australia and most bowlers leaving Steyn, have come a cropper in Australia, but I'm pretty confident that just like in South Africa, a fit Anderson would do reasonably well.
(I would like to thank slipstream/1000yardstare for some of the information in the article)