IIf you scroll through Jimmy Anderson’s Instagram page, it’s hard not to notice that he’s a physically fit man. Among rigorous golf days and regular gym sessions, there are photos of Anderson on a windswept beach, running and stuff, healthy and whipping up supplements. of vitamins.
It’s almost like Big Vita wants you to think you do too – yeah you in your crumb-spotted joggers, you with your expired gym membership, your lame excuses, your two KitKat Chunkies in front of a party’s MasterChef – you could be as lithe and lean as Jimmy if only you took a 2mg pill of first squeeze cod livers every day. Well, yes, keep dreaming. Anderson is 39 years old and a phenomenal nickname. He has spent more than half his life as a professional sportsman, training, feeding, focused and committed to his goal. Those 20 years of graft saw him become England’s all-time leading wicket-taker in Test cricket. You took out the trash last night, big whoop.
Anderson shared her latest photo on Monday, fresh content for her 746,000 followers. The post shows his first team photo for Lancashire, a frost-tipped young cherub in 2002, his boyish good looks enough to get him into any early 2000s pop group.
In the second photo, his most recent Lancashire team photo was taken a few days ago, his stubble has spread and is graying to his chin and there are more laugh lines, but, if anything Either way, the Jimmy of 2022 looks in even better shape than the Jimmy of the previous two decades. “The highlights are now gray but the enthusiasm is the same. I can’t wait to get started,” he wrote.
Anderson will no doubt feel a little different going into this county season. For the first time, he really won’t be sure he played his last test for England. Part of him has to prepare for the possibility that it’s all over. While he is a proud Lancastrian who enjoys representing his county whenever he can, for the past 15 years Anderson’s races for the Red Rose have largely been an exercise in returning, maintaining or proving his suitability for England. The rising spells in the wind at Southport in September are sure to feel different if they aren’t part of a bigger picture.
There are those who think the way Anderson was treated by his England and Wales Cricket Board employers is a kick in his straight teeth. That it’s a travesty after all he gave English cricket to end like this, with a firecracker rather than a show. Some think he should be allowed out on his own terms, that he has earned that right. Others, with a cold gleam in their eyes, know that sport doesn’t really work that way.
As any fan of any sports team at any level knows, sports don’t care about your feelings. I couldn’t give a fig for sentimentality. It’s no wonder that when it comes to sports signings, only a few manage to stage their own final arc.
Cricket is no different. For every Nasser Hussain skimming his last ball in Test cricket to the Lord’s Border to secure a thrilling victory, there’s a Kevin Pietersen, whose last act in the format was to score threes and sixes in Sydney during from the 2013-14 Ashes thrashing. Eight years and seemingly a lifetime since his thrilling debut in 2005, KP was duly dropped for appearing “disengaged”, in the words of then England cricket chief executive Paul Downton. Despite his best efforts, Pietersen never played for England again.
For every career that ends with a teammate’s shoulder tackle and a goodbye lap, there’s one that ends with a tearful press conference or more recently a sad tweet. Even the great Don Bradman suffered at the hands of the game’s chilling disregard for sentiment, famous for a Duck to the Ring in 1948 by Eric Hollies after a final, perhaps tearful, walk to the fold.
Andrew Strauss, the man who addressed Anderson about his current predicament in a well-researched (if only in length) five-minute phone call is no stranger to anticlimactic purposes. His last test in 2012 was overshadowed by the fallout of Pietersen (that man again) texting his friends in the dressing room in South Africa.
Appropriate finales and heartfelt swan songs are as much about the fans in the crowd and the supporters sitting at home as those on the pitch. Giving the sporting public the opportunity to say thank you and goodbye, giving punters a sense of closure. You can imagine Anderson, shy and famously – albeit knowingly – curmudgeonly off the court, enjoying the sight of an emotional, potentially cutesy or over the top goodbye much less than say, Stuart Broad.
Anderson could still play again for England, from the first Test of the summer against New Zealand, from June 2 at Lord’s. He made it clear in interviews this week that he doesn’t feel finished yet. A final and proper bow may still be in store.
He is clearly as photogenic and as fit as he was at the start of his career, the years have been kind to that. But the sport isn’t always so kind and certainly isn’t scripted. An experienced activist for more than 20 years, Anderson knows this well. And that will no doubt add to his sense of unease at the start of the season.