It is, perhaps, the Englishness in us that makes us wary of the different and unnatural.
In the cricketing world, we are not the Caribbean or subcontinent.
Our stars of tomorrow are not shaped on beaches or open spaces in industrial heartlands, with sticks for wickets and anything remotely spherical used as a ball.
In those surrounds, enigmatic talents will flourish, with the unconventional embraced and natural talent lauded.
In England, that is not always the case, with youngsters coached – sometimes to the point of being over-coached – in an effort to get them playing a certain way and adopting a certain philosophy.
Take James Anderson, for example. Here is a man who has just become his country’s leading wicket-taker of all-time and one of the finest exponents of swing bowling the game has ever produced.
He has, however, had to battle to that point, with there a time in his younger days when his action – lunging with a dipping head – caused concern for many.
Fortunately, Anderson – having done more harm than good to his body and game in listening to those calling for change – has ultimately persevered with his favoured approach and reaped the rewards.
HITC Sport recently caught up with a former Ashes-winning captain to discuss all things Jimmy and, during a phone interview, one topic of discussion was his action and the need to let talent thrive.
Mike Gatting, speaking as he penned a congratulation message to Anderson as part of Slazenger’s celebratory flag tour, said: “He went back to it and he gets the ball in the right areas. There are always one or two little bits, but you don’t need to do too much tinkering with something that is good. He had a great ability as a young man to swing the ball, and you don’t want to lose that. There are always little try and build on the good ones. Likewise, with someone who can swing the ball, get them being consistent and putting the ball in the right areas where they are going to be dangerous.”
With England having found a strike bowler as good as any with the new ball in hand, where are the next Anderson and Stuart Broads going to come from?
Gatting added: “There are some youngsters. David Willey is out at Northants. I still think Liam Plunkett has got a bit left in him yet. There are some good cricketers around, there really are, and in the batting line we’ve got a few as well. It was nice to see Alex Hales get a double hundred the other day. There are people knocking on the door who have had a taste of playing for England and having done that, they want to play more. People find out what it takes and the work they need to put in to maintain a spot. It’s all well and good getting in there, but staying in there is where the hard work starts.”
England, it would seem, still have areas to address – with both bat and ball – as the days count down to another Ashes summer.
Anderson, as Gatting rightly points out, will have a ‘big part’ to play from here, with his experience, good and bad, likely to prove invaluable as Alastair Cook, Peter Moores and the wider cricketing family in this country endeavour to put the disappointments of the recent past to one side and build towards a brighter future.
Gatting said: “Jimmy is going to have a big part to play in that. He’s going to lead the attack. He’s been involved in summers where England have done poorly against the Aussies and those that have gone well. He’s been in both camps and his experience should help to show people what they need to do and what they need to do as a team. He’ll be hugely important. But let’s not forget this New Zealand team, they are a good team as well at the moment, and I think England will have a very hard summer. They are going to have to sit down and work hard. It’s quite exciting. When you look at four, five, six and seven – (Ian) Bell, (Joe) Root, (Ben) Stokes and (Jos) Buttler – you think that’s a lovely mix in the middle order there, full of talent, still yet to mature some of it, but there is a lot of talent in there and it should be quite exciting.”
Former MCC President Mike Gatting was signing Slazenger’s ‘Congratulations Jimmy’ flag which will be touring the country this week. Slazenger is celebrating Jimmy Anderson becoming England’s all time leading test wicker by giving 10% off its entire cricket range. Visit store.slazenger.com and follow @SlazengerSport for more details.