World Cup 2019: James Anderson's Burnley bond
Michael Brown, president of England Test speedster Anderson's first club Burnley CC, recalls the fast bowler's journey from baby steps to his giant strides in world cricket
A huge hoarding welcomes you as you approach the Old Trafford cricket ground. ‘Home of James Anderson,’ it says with the English pacer adorning the poster.
There’s a World Cup on here but strangely England’s highest international wicket-taker (862) in all formats is not a part of the team. However, for everyone at Lancashire County Cricket Club this fact is of little relevance, for Anderson is their ultimate hero. They are happy listening to his commentary on BBC’s Test Match Special whenever England are playing. And on other days, they follow his exploits with Lancashire in Div II of the ongoing County Championship.
A young James Anderson (sitting, right) with Burnley Cricket Club players
So, how did this son of an optician in Burnley, who always wanted to be a footballer, go on to become one of the world’s finest pacers? Anderson played his early cricket at Burnley Cricket Club, where he joined the U-13 team. Today, the club has a special suite named after him.
Michael Brown, the president of the club, who also played during the time Anderson made his entry. He says the pacer was not a standout performer initially. “We all played together. We were U-13s but also played in the U-15s. Jimmy has always been a natural athlete. He was very lean, a good fielder and liked his football a lot. He was pretty good at other sports too. He had a lovely bowling action and batted okay. At 13, he was a talented cricketer. However, he didn’t particularly stand out then,” Brown tells mid-day.
There’s been a close bond between the Anderson and Brown families. “Jimmy is a couple of years younger than me, but my brother David is the same age as him. We all played for the club in the U-13 team; that’s where we first met each other. When I started playing for the club’s second team, Jimmy’s dad [Michael] was my captain while his uncle played for the first team. So, the family has a history with the club,” says Brown, whose brother David was the Best Man at Anderson’s wedding and is also the Godfather of one of his two children.
James Anderson with his friends David and Michael Brown (right)
Brown remembers Anderson’s debut match for the club’s first team when he was 16. “My dad was the captain and we were all playing that game. Jimmy was quite raw, but was bowling pretty quick,” says Brown, who now lives in Kent.
Interestingly, Brown’s mother Valerie had a role to play in Anderson getting his first big break with the Lancashire junior team. “My brother and I were already in the Lancashire club’s system then but Jimmy wasn’t getting selected. So, my mom, who knew people at Lancashire, called one of the officials. Though she is not one, who normally interferes, she felt that Jimmy was missing out and deserved a trial with the U-16 team. So she rang them up and requested them to have a look at him. They took her advice and he got into the Lancashire ‘B’ team. Jimmy then went from the U-16 to U-18, made that leap and played in the U-19 World Cup for England. He added a yard to his pace each year and earned the nickname ‘Pro Killer,’ ” says Brown.
Anderson also added swing to his armoury. “Once he got to Lancashire at the age of 17 or 18, he started to come through. He learnt a lot from Mike Watkinson [former England cricketer] who taught him how to grip the ball and get that late swing,” says Brown.
At 36, as Anderson enters the last leg of his career, Brown reveals what keeps him ticking. “He remains very, very motivated and his body is still good. He still feels in control of his game. He will be looking at 600 Test wickets [currently on 575]. If he helps England win The Ashes this year and also gets to that 600 mark, there could be no better way to retire,” Brown concludes.
No. of wickets claimed by James Anderson in 148 Tests
No. of ODIs played by Anderson in which he picked 269 wickets
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe