“King of Swing”: Can Anderson maintain his performances at the highest level?

The so-called “King of Swing” James Anderson, is England’s all-time highest international wicket-taker and the first English bowler to reach a 400 wicket-haul in International Test, but is he on the way out?

A revelation

Making his debut at the tender age of 20, the now 35-year old James Anderson has been a revelation for English cricket. 15 years of pure hard work and skill has left Anderson as one of the most revered cricketers in history. Yet, plagued by injury and with a disappointing return of three wickets from 26 overs in England’s third Test in their series against South Africa, some spectators have raised concerns that “Jimmy” appears to be somewhat faltering.

Not considered

With his consistent performances for Lancashire and England and captaining his local county on their tour of Dubai in March, it seemed that James Anderson would be at least considered for the England captaincy. The exiting leader, Alastair Cook, did not even speak to Anderson when choosing his successor, Joe Root. Root, a charismatic Yorkshireman, is eight years younger than Anderson, and has perhaps a decade of international test cricket ahead of him. Anderson, meanwhile, is at the back end of his career, something which he himself acknowledges.

“I don’t know if I’d have taken the captaincy but it would have been nice to have been considered for it,”

“From a personal point of view I’d have seriously thought about it, but from the outside looking in I’d have thought: is this actually where the team needs to go – with a [then] 34-year-old as captain? I don’t know how long I’m going to keep going for and in the grand scheme of things it makes sense for a younger guy to do it.” — James Anderson

Struggling performances

After missing the 2016 series against Bangladesh through injury, James Anderson returned to the side for the second Test against India, in which India won the match by 246 runs. The Lancastrian, appearing wayward and frustrated, recorded a measly four wickets from 95 balls.

Anderson was even more disappointing in the third Test where he failed to take a wicket in India’s first innings, and with India needing a small target to triumph in the second innings, Anderson again failed to take a wicket as India won by eight wickets. In the fourth Test he once more misfired, finishing with 0-63 as India posted 631 and won the game comfortably; by an innings and 36 runs.

Anderson then proceeded to miss the final Test through injury, as he has often done in the past few years, with England losing the series 4-0.

Age a negative

Former England teammates and fast bowlers, Steve Harmison, and Matthew Hoggard, retired at the ages of 34 and 35 respectively. It therefore seems only a matter of time before James Anderson, in his mid-30s already, hangs his hat up for good. His OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire), awarded in 2015, for “services to cricket” only exacerbates the feeling that Anderson cannot maintain his lofty heights we have become accustomed to for much longer.

Still impressing

Yet, leaving his age and some off-key performances aside, Anderson continues to be a thorn in many a batsman’s side. Just look at his exploits last week in the final Test against South Africa: by the end of play on Friday, Anderson had 4-33 to his name, giving England a firm grasp on the series.

Image result for james anderson vs south africa latest test
Anderson being congratulated for another wicket as he ended Friday’s fourth Test against South Africa with 4-33 to his name

Earlier in the day, Anderson had taken three wickets off a mere six balls from the Old Trafford end which bears his name. Even more impressive is his wicket return in the series as a whole; he is the second-highest – currently – behind Moeen Ali (20) with an emphatic 17, despite his disappointing showing in the third Test.

Anderson is showing few signs of letting up despite some wayward performances and is constantly one of England’s most consistent bowlers. Injuries and age are the only two things stopping “the King of Swing” from being in and around the national setup for a good few years at least. If his body bares up; the name James Anderson will continue to reverberate throughout the cricketing world as someone who can still deliver at the highest level for England.