Not The End of the Road For Anderson and Broad
Two senior pacers do not make the cut now
Even as the England team leave for the Caribbean the talk around the exclusion of James Anderson and Stuart Broad will not go away. It’s about two weeks since the touring squad was picked with – to the surprise of cricket fans the world over – the two senior pacers who have 1177 wickets between them not making the cut.
The Anderson – Broad duo is statistically the most successful bowling pair in Test history now all of 145 years old. The exclusion of one itself would have been a major talking point and it is inevitable that the dropping of both has led to a frenzied reaction in cricketing circles. How can they be dropped with their experience, qualifications and credentials? Is it the end of the road for them? Will they be able to stage a comeback with age against them? On the other hand there is a school of thought – in the minority it must be added – that feel it is time England looked ahead since both are clearly in the evening of their careers.
Yes at 39 and 35 the shelf life of Anderson and Broad cannot last much longer. Indeed it is a tribute to them that they have lasted so long. Anderson in particular is a marvel of modern day cricket. Except perhaps for Imran Khan – whose career lasted 20 years - no other pace bowler has carried on for so long. And he is not just lending his name to the bowling line-up he is still proving to be successful. Why, in the recent concluded Ashes contest he took eight wickets in three Tests at 23 apiece heading the averages. Broad was equally impressive with figures of 13 wickets in three Tests at 26 apiece. And this for a side that lost the series 4-0.
Andrew Strauss the ECB director of cricket has insisted that ''no one is saying that this is the end of the road’’ for them following their exclusion. But at the same time he has spoken of the need for England to recognize that ''there is life beyond them as well.’’ Strauss stressed that it was important to look at the frame in which ''we are looking at the tour. The truth is our Test team haven’t performed well for a while now and our batting in particular hasn’t been up to the level it needs to be.
Secondly if we want to be the best team in the world we have to win away from home consistently. We haven’t done that and that needs to improve. We look upon this as a start of a new cycle, as an opportunity to refresh and look forward. With that in mind we thought in terms of infusing new blood into the bowling resources.’’
Well, at least Strauss has admitted that the batting in particular is not up to the level it needs to be. Much more than the bowling it is the batting that was the cause of England’s debacle ''Down Under.’’ Admittedly there has been some sort of shake-up in the batting line-up with most of the failures in the Ashes series being shown the door. Yes, disasters call for drastic measures but whether it justifies the exclusion of Broad and Anderson is the moot point.
Predictably both have been disappointed at the decision something that Strauss touched upon while speaking on the team selection. ''They are both very disappointed and that doesn’t surprise me for they are very passionate about playing for England. I hope they understand the rationale for the decision and I also hope that they understand that no one is saying this is the end of the road for either of them.’’
Whereas Anderson has hidden his disappointment and not made any public statement Broad has been more forthcoming. He has spoken of being ''confused and angry’’ and uncertain about his future as a Test cricketer. In his newspaper column he wrote ''I always try to find a positive in the hand that has been dealt to me. To be honest though that’s been quite tricky this time because the decision to leave me out of the tour of the West indies has hit me pretty hard.’’
What will be of paramount interest now is to see whether Mark Wood and company make such good use of their opportunities in the Caribbean that they are able to keep Anderson and Broad out during the English summer. Wood, England’s fastest bowler is now clearly the spearhead of the attack which includes new caps in Matthew Fisher and Saqib Mahmood. Against a none too strong West Indian batting line-up the pace attack can come good – though there is no guarantee of this. In any case one cannot see Anderson and Broad not figuring in England’s squad during the 2022 summer given their record in home conditions.
Yes, it can be said with some certainty that their axing from the tour of the West Indies is not the end of the road for them.