James Anderson wants some of England’s younger players to be more vocal when it comes to sharing ideas and contributing to the leadership of the Test team.
Anderson was confirmed as Joe Root’s vice-captain for the New Zealand Test series on Tuesday, having taken the position in Ben Stokes’ absence in the Ashes, but believes there is an important collective role for the players to have below the captain.
“Most teams I’ve played in, the vice-captaincy didn’t mean people talking any more or other people talking less,” Anderson said. “It’s a group effort, a team, we need everybody’s input – Alastair Cook’s input, Stuart Broad, and we need the younger guys to start chirping up a bit more to be honest and having some more input. That’s what we want to do as a team – get to a point where everyone has their say. We’ve got an open and honest dressing-room, all we’re trying to do is improve this team.”
Anderson (134 Tests) is England’s second-most capped player of all time, behind former captain Alastair Cook (152) while Stuart Broad (114) is in the top ten. Root has 65 caps and is part of the senior core alongside Stokes (39), Jonny Bairstow (50) and Moeen Ali (49). Among the less experienced players is the batting trio of Mark Stoneman, James Vince and Dawid Malan – the first two of which will be playing for their Test futures in New Zealand. Chris Woakes sits somewhere in the middle, having played only 22 Tests and needing to re-establish his Test credentials after a poor Ashes.
The team was constantly under pressure during the 4-0 Ashes defeat, but Anderson hoped that that experience would help some players find their voice.
“It probably is one of the quieter [teams],” he said. “I think the Ashes would’ve have helped in that respect because that’s as pressurised an environment as you can get and we came through that pretty strong as a group and hopefully we can kick on from there – not just in the dressing-room but on the field as well. We’ve got areas we need to improve and we know that. Hopefully that Ashes series helps us do that.”
Keeping the vice-captaincy means that Anderson is just injury or illness to Root away from leading England in a Test match – “Yep, I’ll cross that bridge if and when that happens,” he said – and on the final day of the Ashes was left to dissect the 4-0 margin when Root was struck down with a bug that meant he was asleep in the dressing-room when the match ended.
“I enjoyed that last day [in Sydney], I know I can play it down a bit and say I didn’t like it but that responsibility I like – it’s the same as taking the new ball. I enjoy trying to help the team, whether that’s defending the lads in front of the cameras, you guys, trying to fend off Geoffrey Boycott, whatever it might be, I enjoy each challenge that comes my way.”
Anderson’s bowling output is showing no signs of diminishing – he took 17 wickets at 27.82 and conceded barely more than two an over against Australia – but he won’t keep going forever. The next milestone on the horizon is to become the leading pace bowler in Test history, with Glenn McGrath’s 563 wickets now 40 away, but Anderson wants to ensure he helps rejuvenate England’s Test side.
“I think we’ve got some really special players and I want to see this team doing well. I just try and do everything I can to help the guys come through, whether that’s the bowlers or talking to the young guys, help them settle into Test cricket as quickly as possible, or even the batsmen – chatting to them in a net session. I think it’s an important job, certainly for the more senior guys, to do.”
England now have four days, weather permitting, of action in Hamilton to prepare for the two Tests against New Zealand – it will be glorified middle practice given the hotchpotch scenario of pink and red balls over two two-day matches – and there is little room for error in a short series. They were fortunate to escape with a 0-0 draw five years ago and lost the first Test of a three-match series 2008 before winning 2-1.
“We have recognised the areas that we came up short in the Ashes. It’s going to be just as tough in New Zealand,” Anderson said. “Maybe the attention around it is not going to be as big, that sort of pressure might not be as big, but we’re still playing a team that is really settled at home. They’ve got a really good formula when they play here, they’ve got a really good bowling attack who know how to take 20 wickets on these pitches here so we’ve got to really use this next week as best we can.”