For as long as I can remember, the mindset of English cricket has been working in four-year cycles, culminating in an Ashes series.
It tends to reset itself after tours Down Under which is why many players have played their last test matches in Sydney. Some are abandoned, others come in.
But I can’t imagine this happening to this England team because we are in the midst of an era of potential success, and it is not an outdated team that needs to be rebuilt.
I have no plans to stop playing Test cricket for England when this winter’s Ashes tour is over
On the contrary: this is a young team that needs some time. And I see myself as a big part of our goal of becoming the best testing team in the world.
That’s not going to happen on January 18 next year, when the final test ends in Perth, but a few months later, given where the team is now, third in the world behind this summer’s opponents New Zealand and India.
Two years ago, while setting myself some goals on a tour of New Zealand, such as maintaining the pace as a bowler, I saw the upcoming Ashes as my Olympics – something I really wanted to peak at.
Of course I still want to peak for it in terms of fitness, bowling rhythm and wickets. I just don’t see it as the end goal the way an Olympian could. Often they talk about their ‘journey’ when they pick up medals, as if their job is done, but I don’t want these Ashes to be my final destination in international cricket.
Hopefully I am helped by what appears to be a recent change in attitude towards more experienced artists. There is more appreciation for those who perform in different sports in old age, such as Jimmy Anderson, Tom Brady, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and Phil Mickelson.
Once you were written off as soon as you hit 30, but now there seems to be real fun for people watching these older players. It is no longer a matter of them retiring, but of enjoying themselves while they are here.
I see myself playing a key role in the coming years as England try to be the number 1 testing team
And I think my new partner Jimmy and I have proven that the more experienced you are, the more you can deliver under pressure.
I think I have maintained the high levels I have set for myself throughout my career in England and the bar I have set for my personal expectations has not dropped. I really think I’m better now than ever.
My stats playing Test cricket here suggest that I am improving as a bowler and that is a huge testament to the current locker room in England and the one in Nottinghamshire where Peter Moores and Stephen Mullaney have created a very positive environment.
A month before my 35th birthday, I love cricket more than ever; much more than I was at 25.
What I was most excited about building up to Wednesday’s first Test against New Zealand at Lord’s is that I’m already bowling to the intensity of the Test match. I had a message from our fitness trainer Phil Scott looking at my GPS numbers over against Worcestershire a week ago, and they were right up there.
While playing for Nottinghamshire I have noticed that I am already bowling at Test intensity
In fact, my lead-up numbers were even a bit more intense than my test match numbers and I took advantage of a very competitive County Championship cricket. I feel like I’m getting into this series of two tests a few games deep, even though we haven’t thrown a ball yet.
An essential part of being a red ball cricketer is making sure I am fresh and fit for all seven Test matches this summer. I’ve missed a home test in 11 years – the corresponding one at the beginning of last summer. I’m in good shape so I’m ready to do my part of the deal.
What I do understand is what I said to England coach Chris Silverwood last week: I have no control over the selection because those are the opinions and judgments of other people.
Only 696 players have represented England in Test cricket and that tells you that caps are not handed out for free, that you have to work very hard for each one. It’s the ultimate, and if it wasn’t, that number would be closer to 5,000.
Home advantage usually counts for something in the international sport, but that’s not the case this week against New Zealand, which will arguably have more players in their XI with previous Lord’s Test experience than we do.
Playing test cricket for England is a privilege and I am not ready to lose yet
Our batter’s core – Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Dan Lawrence and James Bracey – didn’t play in one. In addition to New Zealand’s knowledge of the conditions, even without the resting Trent Boult, they have one of the most consistent bowling strikes in the world in Neil Wagner, Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, and Matt Henry. Their battle unit has a lot of experience here too, including Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and Tom Latham.
We’re missing a few players after the Indian Premier League, but I still see this as a good but good-natured test run between two teams getting along – it’s not like we’re bitter rivals like we are with Australia – but we will do play tough quality cricket.
Now that India follows, after what happened to us there last winter, and then the Ashes, Test cricket is not getting any bigger than the next year. I just don’t intend it to be my last.
Jimmy has repaid the ECB’s confidence
You wouldn’t have thought that a fast bowler would beat the English Test Caps record 20 years ago. It took a phenomenal dedication and skill and over the years Jimmy Anderson had to be incredibly strong mentally because he had injuries that would have caused many people to give up.
It would have been easy for him to say, “I can’t be bothered to do another rehab.” He missed the whole summer of 2019 with a calf problem, then suffered a stress fracture on the shoulder and went home from the tour of South Africa.
Great credit to him for getting fit and to the ECB for his support knowing he is capable of winning Test matches. He rewarded that confidence in the first test in Chennai earlier this year. I don’t see him slowing down now. He has no eye on the finish. He will go until he can’t and we should all enjoy watching him while we can.
James Anderson is on the cusp of becoming England’s all-time record holder