Did you know that English pacer James Anderson credits Pakistan’s Mohammad Asif for his improved performance in the last few years? That he believes that coach Peter Moores shouldn’t have been sacked in the first place? He was one of those cricketers who were against touring India after Mumbai attack as he felt that it wasn’t the right time to play cricket. In his autobiography aptly titled ‘Jimmy: My Story’, England’s most successful Test bowler tells of his humble beginnings, his impressive first year and above all, his desire to become the best in the world.
Anderson may not be the most fearless bowlers (look-wise) but he certainly has been around to be remembered as a veteran; in his witty tell-all, he talks about everything cricket and gets away with it because of his simple narrative and to-the-point discussions. While he terms Nasser Hussain as the best captain he played under, he minces no words in criticising his successor Michael Vaughan; he tells the readers that his relationship with Andrew Strauss began on the wrong foot but when the skipper began to trust him, he started to respect.
Similarly, he post-mortems the tenures of coaches — terming Andy Flower and Peter Moores as positive influences, Duncan Fletcher as a negative one on him. James’ horizon of discussion here takes you to different places — how he became involved with a successful model who later became his wife; how bad he felt when tragedy struck ahead of their first baby and what Prince Philip told him when he was awarded at Buckingham Palace for his services to English cricket. There was also the mention of his ‘first ever’ six in cricket; something that happened by chance because he never wanted the ball to go that far. Anderson also boasts of his sledging abilities and also the feat where he played 54 Test innings before falling for a duck in Tests, considering he is a tail ender/night watchman.
The way he has described these milestones as well as his career trajectory keeps you glued to the book. He discloses that when he was in school, no one wanted him to be in the cricket team because of his height; it was his sudden change in appearance that made him realise his potential. He also talks about his four wickets against Pakistan in World Cup 2003, his hat-trick against the same opposition, his reaction to being dropped/rested during his career and his resurgence as a fast bowler of repute.
There is also the mention of the 2010 spot-fixing saga; as he was part of the opposing side Anderson felt cheated and rightly so writes what he felt about the Pakistani bowlers and their captain. He rejected Amir’s actions as ‘being childish’ claiming that he was of the same age when he started playing for England and wearing whites makes you a man! He did, however, credit Mohammad Asif’s wobble-seam delivery for his elevation to a feared bowler since he uses that weapon when swing deserts him in alien conditions.
An autobiography without controversy isn’t an autobiography; Anderson talks about the many incidents he has been involved in. Be it the discussion to tour-or-not-to-tour Zimbabwe in 2003, his late night outings that cost him fines and wrath of the management to the Jellybean incident that irritated Indian pacer Zaheer Khan, someone he respected. You get to know a lot about the lanky pacer who is still one of the best in the world even after 114 Test matches – he never liked bowling to Sachin Tendulkar, someone he had dismissed on a lot of occasions.
With a career as lengthy as James (he took 10 wickets in a Test against Sri Lanka just last week), James has been there, done that. He questions his coaches’ methods of selection and the way his colleagues — namely Matthew Hoggard and Steve Harmison — were axed; although it benefitted him and made him leader of the pack. He also doesn’t understand the reason why England played One-day Internationals in Australia when the next event was to be the World Cup in India. He does explain how the English team under Alistair Cook managed to beat India in India and for fans of cricket in indo-Pak that is a must-read! Anderson also reveals how England were able to tame the mighty Aussies in Ashes – twice and how the Aussies treated them outside the stadium. These are the chapters where he describes how unity and faith can change a team’s mindset and gives credits to those who deserved it.
He also talks about his first meeting with his now-best-bud in the side Alistair Cook which happened when the two were in a plane sitting side by side. He also claims that the rise of Graeme Swann as a bowler and as a dressing room joker did unsettle Andrew ‘Freddie’ Flintoff as he held the position before the off-spinner. There are a lot of things that don’t feature in this book including James’ stats as a bowler; yes the pictures are amazing especially the ones where he is bowling. One would be shocked to see the difference in Anderson’s bowling action — about which he talks in detail. A lot of other stuff including his county career with Lancashire, his decision to appear as a model for a gay magazine and Pakistan’s comeback in the 2012 Test series is something any reader — fan or no fan — would look forward to read. Well done Jimmy!