Evergreen James Anderson has learned the only way to combat the “crazy” sound and fury of an Ashes campaign is to simply ignore it – even if it does include random insinuations about ball-tampering.
England’s all-time leading wicket-taker encountered another escalation of brickbats and innuendo around cricket’s oldest and highest-profile rivalry during the drawn Boxing Day Test.
Speaking for the first time about the furore over broadcast frames of him cleaning mud off the ball – in full view of the umpires, and with their approval – he described the incident as “ridiculous”.
England’s Australian coach Trevor Bayliss referred to mis-informed over-reaction as “Pommie-bashing”, and it was swiftly and universally acknowledged Anderson had done nothing wrong.
It was another example of Ashes overblow, though, and nothing new for 35-year-old Anderson.
He is no longer surprised, even if he does find it wearing.
Recalling the fleeting controversy in Melbourne, he said: “It escalated quite quickly, didn’t it? Ridiculous – but what we’ve come to expect … crazy really.”
Anderson’s default reaction these days, to criticism or apparent crisis, is to turn the sound down.
“I think you’ve got to have a thick skin, definitely.
“If you start worrying about ex-players or whoever, whether they are opposition ex-players or even English ex-players … you’ve got to try to block them out.
“We know as a group how well we are doing as a team – or not well. I think that’s the most important thing – what we think.”
In Australia, intensity encompasses the entire two-month event which concludes with the Sydney Test, and England hoping to break this winter’s duck from 3-0 down.
Anderson has had good and bad encounters amid the hype – including one which raised a smile and, he reckons, must have been delivered from the “alcohol-free zone” of the MCG.
“There was a guy shouting at me (the other day): ‘You can’t bowl with a Kookaburra.’
“I said: ‘You might have a point there …'”
Asked if it has become more all-pervasive over the course of his four Ashes tours, Anderson said: “Possibly, yes.
“It doesn’t get any less. It’s just something that we’ve got to put up with. It does get boring at times.”
Before the Melbourne Test even started, he found himself under the microscope after noting that aside from Australia’s three outstanding first-choice bowlers there was no evident depth in the home seam resources.
The observation did not go down well.
“I wasn’t trying to have a dig at anyone, trying to slag them off or anything like that … I just spoke my mind,” said Anderson, who soon decided it was time to switch off the feedback again.
“If people want to get het up about some pretty dull comment I made about their bowling attack, it’s fine.
“I don’t really care.”