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Anderson or McGrath? Who cares?

England's James Anderson. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Expert
16th August, 2018
34

The Ben Stokes affair has somewhat directed the cricketing focus away from the fact that the world’s No.1 Test side are looking anything but.

Two Tests into the five-match series and India are going to have to produce something under the banner of ‘remarkable’ if they are to salvage anything at all from their trip to England.

Given the fact they have a batting line-up that looks distinctly uncomfortable at best and hideously awful at worst – with one glaring and obvious exception in Virat Kohli – the chances of this happening, especially now that the lengthy stretch of hot weather has gone on holiday, are slim veering on none.

Put a bit of green grass and a swinging ball in front of them and the tourists and their defence, pun very much intended, crumble into nothingness.

Their efforts at Lord’s, in the face of some very good bowling, were pretty grim to watch and it would take a brave man to bet against the opposite occurring if conditions during the remainder of the series are of the traditionally English variety.

And one man who won’t be having too much of a grumble will be James Anderson who, if injury doesn’t intervene, will shortly become the most prolific Test match seam bowler of all time.

The Lancastrian needs 11 more wickets to go past Glenn McGrath and into fourth on the all-time list behind the spin triumvirate of Muttiah Muralitharan, Shane Warne and Anil Kumble.

You may see this as an achievement that is tribute to Anderson’s skill and longevity or you could view it as an insult to a bowler of McGrath’s standing.

England's James Anderson, centre, celebrates taking a wicket

England’s James Anderson (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

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I would lean heavily towards the former as you simply can’t rack up numbers like that – 553 wickets at 26.83 – without a serious amount of talent. The fact his powers aren’t beginning to wane is another feather in his cap.

The latter view, and I apologise for making use of a ridiculous newspaper headline I saw referenced on Twitter – ‘Anderson set to steal Glenn McGrath’s record’ was the gist of it – is one no doubt shared by some.

Perhaps in a love to hate context or a more blinkered one, but as with any debate about who is superior to who, both ends of the spectrum tend to be enthusiastically utilised with the middle ground the less explored.

Ultimately, though, who actually cares?

Anderson, McGrath.

McGrath, Anderson.

And so on and so on, a rally with no actual winner.

What is true is that, in their differing ways, both are (were) masters of their respective crafts and whatever caveats you choose to enforce, that much doesn’t change.

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Anderson through swinging the ball, McGrath via relentless accuracy; each exceptionally good at how they operate (operated) and proving that there is more than one way to achieve the desired result.

England, and certainly when they play overseas, would give their right arm for a bowler of McGrath’s ability and, dare I say it, when Australia visit these shores next summer, a savvy swing bowler in their ranks wouldn’t go amiss.

Notwithstanding his ability, Anderson’s value can be judged by the fact there is nobody close to replacing him in the Test side.

Glenn McGrath takes another Ashes wicket.

Glenn McGrath celebrates a wicket during his last Test. (AP Photo/Rob Griffith)

While the rumblings surrounding Alastair Cook’s position grow louder with every average game he plays, the reducing output providing more ammunition for the critics, Anderson has few doubters – and with good reason.

Maybe not at the ultimate peak of his powers but hardly hitting the downhill slope, he was comfortably the standout England bowler in the recent Ashes debacle and his performances in the past couple of months have been excellent.

Cook won’t be put out to pasture quite yet, which is just as well because there are hardly numerous options to fill his boots, but Anderson remains crucial to Joe Root’s side.

And if he does choose to call it a day before Australia show up next year, which is extremely unlikely given some of his utterances in the past few days, he should be dragged out to play willing or otherwise.

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