James Anderson, England’s lead pacer, has opened up on thoughts about retirement and the impending state of the game post-COVID-19, especially with the Anil Kumble-led ICC cricket committee recommending that saliva must not be used to shine the ball in light of the health and safety risk it poses.
Speaking to CNN’s Amanda Davies on Instagram Live, the 37-year old opened up saying that while he was keen to go back to the cricket field, he was equally worried about cricket boards trying to restart the game under the current conditions. With COVID-19 having been declared as an pandemic by the World Health Organisation, Cricket, like every other sport, had come to a complete halt.
In recent times though, governing bodies across the world have given the go ahead for sports to be played under closed roof and Germany’s Bundesliga resumed a week ago. Similarly, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) are trying to resume domestic cricket, with up to 18 English bowlers returning to individualised training from Thursday [May 21] across seven venues in the United Kingdom.
West Indies and Pakistan – the two international touring teams scheduled to arrive this summer, have already responded positively to ECB’s plans on Tests to be played in bio-secure environments behind closed doors during July and August.
Anderson though believes it’s natural for the players to be wary about playing at these times of strife across continents. “It’s just a human reaction to be nervous about this situation. We’ve got players in our team who have pregnant wives and the worry there is if they bring something back,” he said.
“So I think what the ECB is doing is trying to make sure we really, really tick every box that we can to make sure the safety of the players and staff is paramount and make sure everything is in the right place so if and when we do join back up as a team before we start playing, we are as safe as we can be. We’ve talked (with the family) about it briefly. And I think as long as all the safety measures are in place, then I’ll be happy to go back and play,” he added.
Anderson also reckoned that bowlers will have to find new ways of polishing the cricket ball after ICC’s cricket committee recommendations against using saliva. “It’s a massive thing for me because to get the ball to swing, you need to be able to polish the ball and repair it when it gets scuffs on it. It’ll be interesting to see what they do, but I certainly haven’t heard anything,” he said.
If and when international cricket does resume in the UK, one aspect of the game that’s doing rounds is about playing under closed roof, something that hasn’t been done in a country that has seen plenty of support for the five-day game. With the motivation from the crowd expected to go missing, England’s highest wicket-taker believes that he and his team might have to rely on each other a lot more than usual.
“We’re lucky (in England) that most Test matches are sold out, certainly the first few days, we get big crowds so motivating yourself isn’t an issue. You just get out there in front of a packed house and it’s quite easy to get up for a game. I think we might have to lean on each other as players if there’s no crowd there, no atmosphere, we hear the sound of leather on willow echoing around the ground rather than the applause,” Anderson said.
With cricket certainly still a long way away, discussions have now moved around to the longevity of Anderson’s career. Since making his white-ball debut for England in 2002 and following it up with the red-ball debut in 2003, the 37-year old has gone a long way in becoming one of the world’s best new-ball bowlers, particularly in Test cricket. Injuries though have started to take a toll – In 2019, a calf injury forced Anderson to limp out of the Ashes series against arch rivals Australia after bowling just four overs and then he missed the final two Tests in South Africa with a rib injury. He was rested for the Sri Lanka Tests in March (which was postponed after the outbreak of Corona), but was expected to be fully fit at the start of the season. The forced delay though has brought back talks about an impending retirement.
The 2021 Ashes tour and a chance of helping England reclaim the urn means that Anderson isn’t thinking about retirement just as yet. “As long as I’ve got that love for it, I’ll keep going. I don’t know when, retirement for me, it could be six months, it could be six years, who knows. You obviously start to think about it because you get to a certain age. This is when sportsmen and women are meant to retire, in their 30’s,” he said.
“I love playing cricket and that’s what I’m going to do for as long as I possibly can. If we can win in Australia, that would be amazing and – it’s hard to say because it’s so far ahead – but if I managed to play in that and we won, obviously I’d have to see how my body was at that point, but it might be a nice way to go out,” Anderson concluded.