Bold headlines, “ Anderson Claims 600th Test Scalps”, made me sit up. Why, may you well ask? Well, I have ten years of experience of having played Ranji Trophy cricket matches in India as an opening bowler, representing the Services in the North Zone, which comprised teams from the Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi
Bold headlines, “ Anderson Claims 600th Test Scalps”, made me sit up. Why, may you well ask? Well, I have ten years of experience of having played Ranji Trophy cricket matches in India as an opening bowler, representing the Services in the North Zone, which comprised teams from the Jammu & Kashmir, Haryana, Punjab and Delhi.
So, I sat back and let the mind wander, as is its won't nowadays.
Jimmy was born in 1982, when I was almost at the end of my cricketing career. He made his Test debut for England in 2003 (Cap No 613), at the age of 21 and is a work in progress! He is aiming for 700 and well he might climb that peak. Keeping himself fit and in good fettle, and having wise captains to play under, will get him that target. The spirit may be willing, but the flesh would weaken and an astute captain would employ his abilities to telling effect if used judiciously. To be used as a shock and awe weapon rather than a trundle in selective matches. Quite like Brearley brought out the best in Botham.
Anderson has an interesting combination as a right-arm bowler and a left-handed batsman. And, he is no rookie with the bat. An odd world record that he also holds is to bat 54 Test innings without scoring a duck! Am sure that quacks him up. He conjures up an image to me as a pacer with a classic sidearm action, with a natural out swing and, can reverse swing, with the old ball. Can be quite unplayable when the conditions are right, being able to pitch on middle and leg and peg back the off stump. From the start, his Test bowling experience is something like the 100 metres run of Carl Lewis or Usain Bolt, i.e. slow start, fast finish!
Got me wondering how he would stack up against the legendary pacers of yore—Fazal Mahmood, Ghulam Ahmed, Tyson, Larwood, Hall, Griffith, Gilchrist, Statham, Trueman, Alan Davidson, Lillee, Thompson. And the West Indies pace stable of Holding-Garner-Roberts-Marshal-Walsh-Ambrose, as also Waqar and Wasim and the great all-rounders.
I would tend to think, given the lesser number of Tests being played earlier and injuries suffered, each one of them would have been a match, regarding quality of bowling. Those were larger than life bowlers, populating the Pantheon of Great Pacers, who made batsmen quake. At the end of the day, though, the record is with Anderson. And, well deserved too as he now stands head over shoulder over them.
In every bowler’s bag is a batsman who is his “bakra” (sacrificial goat) and his, I believe, is Virat Kohli. Mine was the late Chetan Chauhan, playing for Maharashtra against us, the National Defence Academy (NDA). A tale, for a rainy day.
So, now that my imagination is tickled, let me indulge big time. I am now imagining what the on-field conversation would be like at that critical juncture when Jimmy needs one wicket for 600. It’s there at the back of his mind, playing tricks.
Root (Captain): “Jamie, c’mon and get this buffoon back into his cage at the pavilion”.
Wkt Keeper (WK): “Let's have a snorter. Jam the booger’s toes”.
Batsman: “Yaar, yeh sab kyabol raheyhain? Main nahin hatnaywallah, inshallah.Yeh Laffandar jo bhikar lay.”
(What's going on? I am not going anywhere. These b*ggers can do what they want)
Non Striker: “ Lagayrahe, dost. Bas, apnee wicket sambhal.”
(Hang in there, buddy. Don't lose your wicket)
Jimmy:“ What the Eff are these Pakis saying? I’ll knock the bugger’s block off, if he’s getting fresh.”
Batsman:”Chal saalay, gaind phek. Apni nani say poochkar bowl karega?”
( C'mon idiot, bowl. Going to take your granny's permission or what)?
Jimmy comes in and bowls and the batsman misses narrowly.
Jimmy: “Fookin’ moron. Who taught this monkey to bat?”
WK: “Good one,Jammy. York the booger. I got a date tonight, nail his ass fast.”
Batsman:” Mujhe gaali day rahen hai kya? BC, main chaataa iskay andar daalkar khol doonga.”
(Are they abusing me? F**kers, I'll shove an umbrella up and open it inside)
Runner:” Abay, chhod usko. Tu apni killi bacha. Phokoos rakh”
(Hey, chill. Hang on to your wicket. Stay focused)
Jimmy:” How did these Pakis get such monkeys to play Test cricket? Don’t they need visas?’
Batsman:”Tu nay mujhe monkee bola? Teri Maaki..”(Advances towards Jimmy)
(You called me a monkey, mother *** )
Jimmy:” Yes and your whole ***ing family.”
Umpire:” Gentlemen, Please play.”
Root:”York the effer. (Places 2nd slip at extra cover in case it falls short)
Batsman takes his guard and is now wondering what will Jimmy bowl? Decides it will be a Yorker
Jimmy comes in, leaps and at the moment of delivery decides to do an outswinger. Ball slips out in the confusion.
The ball lands a bit short of a length hits the seam and cocks up.
Batsman:”Oyteri, BC. InniTez?”(Silently; expecting a yorker).( Oh f*cks. Mothah F*cker. So effing fast)
Takes the shoulder of the bat and Root takes a head-high catch ! 600 peak reached.
Well Done, Anderson. Onward Ho, 700 it is, then.
So, there you have it. Many a slip and all. . Happens often, at the last moment a bowler does something totally off, when under pressure. Remember Chetan Sharma’s last ball full toss, which landed in the next country?
For the record, may I add that my record is no less. I have my name is Wisden’s Almanac at Lords, for having captured all 10 wickets in an innings in a First Class Match! You can equal it, but cannot break that record! Eat your heart out, buddy.
But, if we were bowling in tandem, since pace bowlers hunt in pairs, “you would swing it to the left, I would swing it to the right, and we’d swing it all about.” As that song goes.
Let's meet at the George and Dragon pub, Jimmy, with only George present and not his wife. Ha Ha. Cheerz.
(The writer is a retired Indian Army colonel who represented the Services in the Ranji Trophy championship, a first-class cricket tournament recognized in the World of Cricket, from 1974-84. A left-arm medium-fast, in-swinger, he is the first Indian bowler whose name is recorded in Wisden’s Almanac at Lords for having captured all 10 wickets in an innings in a first-class match.)