Alastair Cook is adamant England’s all-time leading wicket-taker James Anderson still has the heart and physical fitness to make a “big difference” to his Test team for years to come.
England made the fine-margin judgment to leave Anderson out of today’s final Test against India in Chennai, because of “body soreness”, as they seek to avoid a 4-0 scoreline in a series already lost.
Anderson was ruled out on the eve of the match, Cook explaining England decided the risk-reward factor did not stack up in asking the 34-year-old to play his fourth Test in a month – having toiled already through almost 80 overs for four wickets.
The captain believes it is the right call with a player who, even in advancing years, remains a prize asset England hope can add significantly to his national-record 467 Test victims.
Asked if he expects Anderson to be back for many more – after a six-and-a-half-month break before England’s next Test in July – Cook was emphatic, but admitted increasingly careful management of the veteran’s workload may be key.
“I’m very confident,” he said of Anderson’s Test future. “He can make a big contribution, a big difference to English cricket over the next couple of years.”
Anderson’s absence means he will have missed six out of 17 Tests in the past 12 months through injury, with a stress fracture of the shoulder in his bowling arm the most troublesome problem.
“I think we’re certainly going to have to manage him more than we have previously,” added Cook.
“He might miss a couple more Test matches as a precaution.”
Cook values not just Anderson’s wickets but his expert advice, and he wants to have it at his disposal for as long as possible – including in next winter’s Ashes in Australia.
“You can’t buy the experience he’s got,” he said. “It’s valuable, and we have to use that cleverly.”
Anderson has had an enviable fitness record for much of his career, and Cook believes he will last longer as a fast bowler than, for example, former Lancashire team-mate Andrew Flintoff.
“He might fly again, after a few months off now when he can really recover properly,” he said.
“He’s not Freddie Flintoff – no disrespect, but he pounded his body when bowling. Jimmy’s obviously a lot lighter and he does have a lot less wear and tear.”
Cook has no doubt either that Anderson still has the will to continue. “He does definitely... I just know from talking to him and looking into his eyes.
“He’s disappointed he’s not playing this game. But I think it’s the right call.”
Anderson is rested not just because of the shoulder which kept him out of a Lord’s Test last summer and then three matches at the start of England’s winter schedule in the sub-continent.
“It’s a bit of everything – his ankle as well and a bit of shoulder soreness,” said Cook.
“We’re looking after him.
“He’s just sore... it’s not worth the risk with him, especially with his past six months or so.
“When he’s been in this situation and we’ve played him, he has picked up injuries. So this isn’t the right time to play him.
“Yes, he possibly could get through – but... we don’t see as a management group that’s it’s worth taking that risk.”
Anderson’s situation provided a brief distraction from conjecture about Cook’s future as Test captain.
It has been relentless for much of this tour, and is expected to be resolved in the new year following his campaign debrief with England and Wales Cricket Board director Andrew Strauss.
Cook has learned, during his record 58 Tests in charge, to take the rough with the smooth.
“When you lose games of cricket you are under fire – it happens to everyone... part and parcel of the job,” he said. “When you’re part of the leadership group you live and die by decisions.
“When it’s going well everybody thinks you’re brilliant, and when you’re doing badly everybody thinks you’re terrible. You’re probably somewhere in the middle most of the time.”
Virat Kohli has alerted counties to his interest in playing first-class cricket in England before India’s next tour in 2018.
The India captain, 28, explained his plan to try to attune himself to conditions before the two teams meet again and made it clear he would jump at the opportunity to play county cricket.
“If I have a chance I would love to do that, “ he said. “I would love to be there for a month-and-a- half beforehand, getting used to playing in the conditions, understanding what the wickets play like in that phase of the year.”
Kohli could average only 13.4 on his previous tour of England in 2014 when India lost 3-1, but he has racked up 640 runs at 128 in this winter’s rematch.