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James Anderson : The Swing King


James AndersonA few days ago, I did write a preview on England v India series. In that preview I said, whenever I have thought of Anderson in the last few years, I envisage a cheetah catching its prey. For cheetahs, stealth plays a key role. They employ tricks like moving low in the grass, approaching from down-wind and using small rises in the land to disguise its approach.

After the first test at Ahmedabad, if someone had visited my blog for the first time, they could have thought that I am a typical fan girl, who just can't stop praising Anderson to the skies. At A'bad, Anderson did keep it tight after the mauling he received at the hands of  "I see the ball and hit the ball" Sehwag. There was nothing to suggest though that a cricket aficionado can envisage Anderson as a cheetah catching its prey with stealth.

At Kolkata, Anderson was a different kettle of fish. He didn't swing  the ball around trees with the batsmen feeling like bees making bzzz bee like sounds. It was more of subtle movement both ways at good pace; which hypnotised the batsmen into making mistakes. Poor Indian batsmen, as they seemed to be suffering from amnesia about where their off-stump is located.

Plotting a batsman's downfall is a difficult art to master. To use the width of the crease and create doubts in a batsman's mind; by fractionally changing the angle of the delivery. To work out the batsman by bowling say a few outswingers; followed up by the in-dipper to catch the batsman plumb in front. To go around the wicket to a left-hander so as to change the angle of a delivery requires great skills, practice, and of course, the experience of playing in lots of tests helps.

This art of out-thinking the batsman isn't like bowling the first five deliveries that leaves the batsman; then bowl the one with a bit of shape into the batsman. If that was the case, Ishant Sharma wouldn't have been averaging 109.5 with a S/R of 177 this year. A bowler needs to seize the right movement, where he feels like the batsman is playing him for the booming inswinger. Ah, that is perhaps the right time to go slightly wide of the crease and bowl the outswinger to catch the edge.

Aaakash Chopra describes this craft quite eloquently. He says, "For some reason, the ball comes back in a lot more than it goes away when it's reversing, so most batsmen try to play inside the line at all times. While that takes care of the balls coming in, it leaves you vulnerable to those that hold their line or go away fractionally. That's what Anderson exploited on day one in Kolkata - he used the indippers almost as decoys to induce outside edges with the balls that held their line. Both Virat Kohli and Sachin Tendulkar were the victims of the same strategy".

Up against Pakistan in '10, in Oz 2010/11, against India in '11, in UAE this year, Galle and more so at PSS Colombo, Anderson did something similar. With a new ball in hand, he made the ball talk at PSS Colombo. He was all over the young opener from SL, Thirmane. He seemed to be playing on his mind; by pulling the yo-yo strings on and around the batsman's off-stump.

Jimmy was swinging it late both ways. What made it worse for the young opener was, in one of the overs, Jimmy bowled mainly away swingers. The young opener perhaps got into a set pattern of leaving everything and as a result, tried to leave the first ball of the next over. The result of that mistakes was, Jimmy trapped him plumb in front, as from nowhere he bowled the inswinger. This is what you call as plotting a batsman's downfall.

In that series, he got Sangakkara's wicket for fun and there were a few memorable battles with the captain fantastic Mahela Jayawerdena too. In-fact, I do remember myself comparing Anderson to how Hadlee bowled during his time (on the basis of an old footage of Hadlee's bowling). Let me clarify that I compared him to Hadlee on the basis of only that series in Sri Lanka :)

Since then, Jimmy has bowled more like a stock bowler. Maybe it was due to the fact that Broad and Bres were leaking runs and as a result, he tried to just keep it tight. With a quick bowler Finn at the other end, Jimmy suddenly upped his pace at Kolkata and it made a difference for sure. When it comes to reverse swing, the quicker you bowl, the better it is.

Before the series, there were also some experts, who were saying in Indian conditions Jimmy Anderson will be no good. It was more, or less based on how poor Anderson was in the World Cup. To be frank, one-day cricket is completely different. In the onedayers, a bowler who mainly tails it in with the older ball will do better. Even if a bowler doesn't give the width for a batsman to pounce on it, he will look to make room for himself and smash it . This is one of the reasons why Bres was more effective in that tournament, as he reverses it back into a RHB. Jimmy looks to mainly take it fractionally away from a RHB, or hold its line.

In a nutshell, when Anderson is bowling with good rhythm, he is a connoissuer's delight. He shows that pace bowling isn't just about steaming in like a bullet train CRH 380A and sending the stumps for a long walk. It is also about wearing your thinking cap on and plotting a batsman's downfall with a craft called swing bowling. In-fact, Anderson himself is a good role model for someone like Sharma, as he seems to have sold his unused brain to some antique shop.

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