England’s greatest Test wicket-taker James Anderson could struggle to hold his spot in the upcoming Ashes series, according to former Australia captain Ian Chappell.
The 2017-18 Ashes, scheduled to begin at the Gabba on November 23, will likely be the final Test tour down under for Anderson, who turns 35 at the end of this month.
But Chappell says the England spearhead, who has battled shoulder and heel injuries in the past 12 months, is no certain starter for the first Test against the Australians.
"I think he’s got a lot to prove in Australia and what he’s shown so far he might be lucky to hold a spot in Australia," Chappell told The Unplayable Podcast.
"(New ball partner Stuart) Broad’s got a better record than him in Australia.
"Broad’s style of bowling is perhaps better suited to Australia and then when you’ve got (Chris) Woakes and (Ben) Stokes, I like the look of Mark Wood, Jake Ball is a pretty reasonable (fast bowler), they’ve got a lot of good young quicks around so I wouldn’t see James Anderson as a certainty in the (team).
"I think he’ll come to Australia but I don’t necessarily see him as a certainty in the XI."
While Anderson has been a force of nature at home, his returns in Australia are significantly down from his stellar record in the UK.
On English soil he’s captured 296 of his 467 Test wickets at a superb average of 25.63 including 17 five-wicket hauls, and he has thrice claimed 10 wickets in a match.
In Australia, it’s a different story. Across three Ashes tours and 13 Tests, the right-armer has 43 wickets at 38.44 runs apiece and a strike rate of 69.3 balls per wicket, which is 17 deliveries more than the same measure at home.
If those numbers don’t make for encouraging reading, Anderson can take some solace in his performance in the drought-breaking 2010-11 campaign where he finished the five-match series as the leading wicket-taker with 24 Australian victims at 26.04.
However, four years later, Anderson failed to contain a rampant Australian batting unit, managing only 14 wickets at 43.92 as England were whitewashed 5-0.
Former Australia wicketkeeper Ian Healy says Anderson has "underachieved" in Australia, and that the swing bowler has failed to adapt to the red Kookaburra ball used in the Antipodes.
"I think he’s even said that in the past," Healy said on The Unplayable Podcast when asked if Anderson’s troubles in Australia start with the foreign ball.
"Then it’s a real Test of his stamina to bowl long, long spells in hot old Australia where the ball doesn’t swing for long when it’s brand new and doesn’t reverse as much as his England one (ball) reverses later on in the innings.
"That Dukes ball gives the bowler a lot more pleasure than the Kookaburra ball – it’s hard slog, flatter seam, not swinging as much.
"You need to have some stamina and endurance and he hasn’t.
"Basically, they come out here after their summer, so it’s hard work.
"Whenever an Australian team goes to England or and England team comes to Australia they can sometimes be tired, especially the fast bowlers.
"(England) will be managing him as best they can to see if he can cause some trouble in Australia."
Chappell’s concerns with England’s bowling attack don’t stop at Anderson.
The 73-year-old says England don’t know who their best spinner is and can’t rely on the output of part-time off-spinner Moeen Ali during the Ashes.
England’s selectors named left-arm spinner Liam Dawson in the first Test squad to face South Africa at Lord’s tomorrow, while leg-spinner Mason Crane – who made his international debut last month – has also been talked about as possible Ashes tourist.
Whichever way England go, Chappell is confident leg-spinner Adil Rashid will not thrive in Australia despite an impressive season with the Adelaide Strikers in the KFC Big Bash League in 2015-16.
"I don’t think they’re going to get away with Moeen Ali in Australia," Chappell said.
"Sure, if he’s your second spinner then fine.
"They need a frontline spinner. I don’t know whether Mason Crane is going to be that far advanced by the time they get here but if they’ve got thoughts of bringing him to Australia I think they should play him in a couple of Tests in England first.
"I don’t think Adil Rashid will work in Australia – the Australians will take a toll on him.
"(The BBL) is a game where batsmen will get themselves out.
"When the bowler has got to get them out I think that’s when he’ll struggle.
"I don’t think he’d give the Australian batsmen much trouble."