James Anderson is all set to break Glenn McGrath’s record for most Test wickets by a fast bowler, but McGrath isn’t fussed about being toppled from the perch. If anything, he says he will be ‘proud’ of the Englishman’s achievement when it comes.
McGrath retired from Test cricket after the 2006-07 Ashes, incidentally the only time he played against Anderson, with 563 wickets to his name, well ahead of Courtney Walsh’s tally of 519 wickets but well behind the overall mark of 800, which stands in Muttiah Muralitharan’s name.
Anderson has now worked his way to 557 and could well get the seven wickets for the record by the end of the ongoing home series against India, which England are leading 2-1 with two matches to go.
McGrath heaped praise on Anderson, particularly for his ability to swing the ball both ways, a trait the Australian legend first noticed in the series they played against each other.
“Records are nice and I’ve been very proud to have taken more wickets than any fast bowler in Test history, but any high is there to be beaten and I will be equally proud of Jimmy when he goes past me because the fast bowlers’ union has to stick together, whichever country we come from,” McGrath wrote in a column for Daily Mail.
“It is only a matter of time now before he gets there and I will be getting in touch with him as soon as he does to say well done. I have an awful lot of respect for Jimmy. Good luck to him. I believe once he goes past me he will never be beaten.
“I’ve always said Jimmy was class, ever since I played against him in what became my last Test series in 2006-07. I noted how he swung the ball both ways conventionally, because it’s a real art form.”
McGrath likened Anderson’s control over swing to Pakistani great Wasim Akram. “Not many have been able to (move the ball both ways). I can only really think of Wasim Akram, who is another great of the game, who could do that as skilfully,” said McGrath.
McGrath, however, remains comfortably better than Anderson in terms of bowling average. In a career spanning 124 Tests, the Australian took his wickets at just 21.64 whereas Anderson, who has played 141 Tests so far, averages 26.85.
According to McGrath, this could be because Anderson used to face some struggles with the Kookaburra ball in his earlier days – a problem he feels the Englishman has addressed through the course of career.
“When Jimmy plays at home with the Dukes ball he’s second to none, but he has had to learn how to operate overseas with the Kookaburra ball that, to me, is not nearly as good to bowl with. It took him a while but he’s done that now,” said McGrath.
“Once Jimmy goes past me it will be interesting to see where he wants to set the bar. With the nature of the game these days, and the amount of Twenty20 cricket, I believe no fast bowler will ever go past him.”