Graeme Swann: Jimmy's a legend but still hasn't apologised for dropping AB off my bowling!

James Anderson and Graeme Swann training with England
Anderson and Swann immediately hit it off and became firm friends in the England set-up

After James Anderson took his 600th wicket in the third Test against Pakistan, Betfair Ambassador Graeme Swann hails his best mate as England's greatest bowler...

"I know he seems like a miserable bugger, but most of that, maybe 90% of it, is an act for his bowling persona, to kid the batsman a bit"

Getting to 600 wickets is a remarkable achievement. Jimmy Anderson is the best bowler we've ever produced, and that's not even an argument for me. He is simply the best across all eras.

His longevity is incredible, his skills with the ball are unmatched and he has proved time and time again that he's the man. He is just irresistible when the ball is swinging and when the conditions are in his favour, there is simply no better bowler in the world.

Anderson and Broad, the ultimate combination

Broady and Jimmy go together like Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. They're in that echelon if not better than those two. They complement each other beautifully. I always used to think I complemented Jimmy well when I bowled at the other end because I would keep the ball nice and dry, soften the batsman up and then let him get easy wickets. I think Broady would say he does exactly the same and Jimmy would agree. The truth of the matter is that good bowling partnerships soften batsmen up for each other and those two are second to none.

They're both very headstrong characters and both very forthright in their views. They know what works and what doesn't, so they are good leaning posts for each other and good people to discuss options with. In all the time I've known them, I've never seen a bad word between either of them, even though Jimmy comes across as a real grump.

Actually, I know he seems like a miserable bugger, but most of that - maybe 90% of it - is an act for his bowling persona, to kid the batsman a bit.

When Swanny met Jimmy

I'd never met Jimmy before and I was standing outside the PCA Awards at the end of the season. I was waiting for a taxi - or for some late-night London revelry, whichever came first - and he wandered along. Jimmy said: "Fancy sharing this taxi?" It was the start of an amazing friendship.

It was lucky really as it was towards the end of a night out so he'd had a few drinks, because after a few beers Jimmy becomes like Mr Jekyll to his sober Dr Hyde. He's a totally different monster from his on-field persona - fun-loving, hilarious - and that was the Jimmy I bumped into that night. So I saw the best of him long before I dropped a catch off him and saw the worst.

Actually, it's somehow worse to misfield off Jimmy than drop a catch. I remember playing at Lord's and one had dropped short of me at slip. I hadn't quite got my legs together in time and it went through me for four runs. He went mental at me.

Two overs later he dropped a catch off me at short mid-wicket to get AB de Villers out - South Africa's best player at the time - and Jimmy didn't apologise at all. He walked past me an over later and I was glaring at him, waiting to hear him say: "Sorry, Swanny". But he just said: "We're even now, you dickhead."

He keeps going because he knows himself

The reason Jimmy has kept going all these years is because he is so headstrong. When he was young and the ECB tried to change his bowling action to look after his back, he got a stress fracture. So he immediately went back to bowling his own unique way where his head doesn't look where he's bowling and he's been fit as a fiddle ever since.

Jimmy and I used to share an extremely questionable diet and yet he doesn't put on an ounce of weight. He doesn't waste too much time on his batting either, so he's got plenty in his tank for his bowling. But more than anything, when people tell him what he's doing wrong, he largely ignores them. He smiles and nods and says "thank you" but he knows his own body best.

Seam and swing bowling is a dark art, and it's a testament to how strong he is that he always backs himself.

He'll bowl forever - if you let him

I see him in that first Ashes Test in 2021 only because I can't ever see a day when he stops bowling and, when he's still bowling, he should be playing for England. The team should be hoping that he's surplus to requirements by then and they've got someone to step up in his place, but replacements for a legend like Jimmy don't just come along. Australia have similarly searched for a spin bowler since Shane Warne, but he's the best they've ever produced and they can't replace him.

One thing we cannot do is protect Jimmy Anderson by not playing him. It would be so disrespectful towards India, who are by far the best Test team in the world, to say we are resting Jimmy for a series like that to preserve him for the Aussies. Clearly, the Ashes are a big thing but England and Australia are not the number one and two Test teams in the world right now.

I've always said that England should pick their best side on the day on merit. This isn't a friendly club side on a Sunday - it's a game of Test cricket for England and Jimmy doesn't deserve ever to be left out.

Jimmy will bowl as long as he can and as long as his body will let him. Even after that, he'll stay in cricket. He needs to because he has that much to give. If he isn't already a player-coach, he should be made a bowling coach as soon as he retires. That's no disrespect to the people involved at the moment, but no one person in England has the knowledge that Jimmy has when it comes to seam bowling. He should be in charge of fast bowling around the country.

Whether they will do it or not, I don't know, because they have a habit of letting valuable assets, even spin bowlers perhaps, drift for a few years. But really, Jimmy should be their seam bowling coach when the day comes and he stops playing. And if they need someone to talk about spin, they know where I am.

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