England cricketer James Anderson showed that three letters and the same amount of numerals won’t change the courteous individual that once lived a normal, less-publicised life in Burnley.
The 32-year-old, who now has an OBE and 403 wickets to his name, celebrated the stunning achievement by attending Blessed Trinity RC College, the re-model of his former school St Theodore’s, as a surprise guest.
There, among pupils who had longed to meet him and amidst teachers who had wished to one day be re-united with him, Anderson focussed on the sport’s future by promoting an initiative headed by Chance to Shine as part of Yorkshire Tea’s National Cricket Week.
The hope is to encourage more youngsters to get involved and enthuse the next generation in the art of swinging a bat, delivering a ball, and taking a catch.
Anderson himself didn’t have access to such comforts, though he’s certainly prospered from a natural progression.
The raw, idiosyncratic elements of his form and distribution, once mistakenly reined in by Troy Cooley under Duncan Fletcher’s regime, has been celebrated and admired throughout the globe.
There’s no denying that Anderson’s journey from school leaver to high profile visitor has been nothing short of remarkable.
While his cricketing background as a student was nominal, his achievements in the sport have been simply phenomenal.
The “Burnley Express”, as he’s fondly known, fought back from the tampering and stress fractures to overhaul Sir Ian Botham’s long-standing Test wicket record and receive an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List after taking his 400th Test scalp.
Anderson, transformed and rejuvenated under Peter Moores, with his unconventional and inimitable style encouraged once more, became the most successful bowler in England’s Test history when passing Botham’s mark of 383 wickets.
In his 100th Test he had West Indies captain Danesh Ramdin caught by Alastair Cook at slip on the final day of the first match of three in Antigua in April.
He went on to reach 400 in the second Investec Test against New Zealand at Headingley when he had Martin Guptill caught in the slips by Ian Bell - becoming the 12th cricketer worldwide to reach the milestone.
“It’s been good,” he said. “Everything’s kind of happened at once but it’s been an amazing few months for me and for my family as well. Hopefully it’s a sign of things to come and I can continue with more success.
“The record probably meant more to my dad (Michael) than it did to me. He was very proud. It’s such a huge achievement and I still can’t quite believe that I managed to achieve that. It leaves me speechless.
“It’s amazing and I feel really fortunate to do this as a job. I’ve loved every minute of it and if it ended tomorrow I’d be so happy with what I’ve achieved and everything that’s come with it. I’m just so happy that I’ve been able to do this for so long.”
On his OBE, Anderson added: “I wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s still all a bit of a shock really. I don’t know what else to say. My mum cried, my dad wasn’t too fussed, but they’re very proud. It was a big shock because I never expected anything like that. It was a very proud moment.”
Anderson’s inspiration is a Bayeux Tapestry of national and international individuals. Peter Martin, Glenn Chapple, Alan Donald, Glenn McGrath and even Boris Becker are all part of that embroidery that brought Anderson to the fore.
“I was fortunate that my dad went to watch Lancashire a bit so I went down there. There were a couple of guys - Pete Martin and Glenn Chapple were extremely good bowlers. I watched them growing up. Fortunately cricket was on terrestrial TV back then so I could watch a lot of it.
“People like Alan Donald and Glenn McGrath - I tried to copy them as much as I could. But Boris Becker was my real hero. I used to try and copy him. I’d dive around the living room, volleying against the wall. I used to watch all sports on TV so I took inspiration from it.”
He added: “Over the last few months I’ve thought about things that have gone on in this journey. I’m just thankful to everyone that’s been a part of it. I didn’t play much at school so without the coaches we had at Burnley I wouldn’t have been able to progress the way I did.
“The same goes to Lancashire County Cricket Club and on to England. Without the people that have been involved in helping me along the way I wouldn’t have been able to achieve what I have. It’s something that I think about a lot and I’m very grateful for.”