Whisky. Fine wine. Jimmy Anderson. Just three things that get better with age. England’s highest ever wicket taker will turn 39 this summer, but age shows no sign of slowing Anderson down.
“I feel like I have definitely got better with age,” he told The Sportsman at the launch of cinch's partnership with England Cricket. “Certainly I think the last five years have been my best and I still feel like I can improve as well. I still turn up every day to training and try and improve. I think with all sportspeople, you have so much experience to fall back on and you get to a certain age and you feel like you have gone through everything emotion, you've experienced every possible outcome of the game. If you find yourself in a certain situation, you have generally been there before, so you can cope with it a bit better. I feel like I'm there at the moment so I feel like I can still improve even more.”
It isn’t just Anderson who is enjoying a fruitful Indian summer of his career. This year, Phil Mickelson became the oldest major winner in history at 50, while the likes of Cristiano Ronado and Roger Federer are still at the very top of their sports in their late 30s.
“I think there is just a perception, certainly in this country that once you get to a certain age you've got to start slowing down, especially in sport,” Anderson explains. “There's been such an advancement in sports science and the ability to stay fit to stay healthy and just prolong your career and you are seeing it all around the world, you mentioned Mickelson, seeing Tom Brady win the Super Bowl at 43. Federer is still going at 39, there are a lot of examples of people going on for longer.
“It is just a case of as long as you have got the hunger for putting in the hard yards. I feel like I have got to work harder now in the gym, make sure my body is still in good shape to cope with playing - as long as you are happy doing that and have the hunger for that and as long as you want to keep improving then that helps. I still love the game, still love playing and that helps too.”
England have an absolutely packed schedule in 2021, with a two-match Test series against New Zealand, and T20 and ODI series against India and Sri Lanka to come before the Ashes begin in December.
“It is always a huge challenge going to Australia, I don't think it is going to be any easier than it ever has been to be honest. We know that we have got a big summer ahead of us now to try and get in some sort of form and get some momentum and some wins to try and make sure we are going to Australia in a really good place.
“You need to be confident as a team going there, you can't be unsure about what is your best team or unsure about any part of the squad you have got to have the players that you know can do the job and we've got a few months to be able to do that as a team.”
The man who will lead the England side on their quest to win the Ashes down under for the first time since 2011, a side Anderson also played in, is captain Joe Root. “He has really grown as a captain over the last few years. Certainly on the field, tactically, he is really, really good. He is great for me as a bowler to talk to and share ideas with,” Anderson added.
“I think he has really put his stamp on the team, he knows how he wants his team to play and how we are going to go about winning games of cricket. We try to go out there and implement his plans on the field. I think the biggest thing for me is the way he leads by example. He is the first one in the nets and the last one out. He is still one of the best batsmen in the world so we are very lucky to have him.”
One man who has been playing alongside Anderson for the past 15 years is fellow fast bowler Stuart Broad and although they have not played as much together recently, the pair still share a close bond on and off the field.
“We are definitely [still] learning from each other, we talk a lot even away from cricket we talk most days whether it is about cricket or whatever really - general chat. We talk a lot about how we can get better or improve and we know the game so well that we can certainly help each other a lot on the field and in the nets.
“I think that has helped us be a good partnership. We don't play too much together anymore, which is a shame, because I'd like to think if England picked their best team that we would both be in it still. We are just going to have to hope that over the next few months that is going to be the case and we can play a few more games together.”
So will this be Anderson’s last ever Ashes series?
“I'm not sure to be honest,” he smiled. “I was gutted to miss the 2019 one with injury, it would be nice to play in another one at home. It is one of those things, I don't know what is going to happen, at the moment I feel great, fit and healthy, feel like I'm bowling as well as I ever have. So as long as that is the case, then I'll just keep going.
“As long as I can hold my place in the team, and my skills don't drop off, then I'll try and keep helping the team win and that's all I really care about.”
England cricketer Jimmy Anderson partnered with cinch, England cricket’s new principal partner to help Ramsbottom CC take on the pro’s in the ultimate faff-free match. And the results were hilarious! Follow @cinchUK and keep an eye out for the full video coming out on 10th May. cinch takes the faff out of buying a car with quality checked used cars delivered direct to the buyer’s door wherever they are across mainland UK, and a 14-day money-back guarantee.