How James Anderson reacted in England retirement meeting as West Indies plan to ‘ruin’ farewell

James Anderson will end his sensational Test career this summer (Picture: Getty)

England cricket chief Rob Key admits James Anderson was taken aback when Test captain Ben Stokes and head coach Brendon McCullum told him it was time for the team to ‘move on’ from the legendary bowler.

Anderson, whose wicket tally in Test cricket is bettered by just two players, will retire from international cricket following England’s opening Test match of the summer, against West Indies at Lord’s.

The 41-year-old confirmed the Lord’s Test would be his last in a statement on Saturday but reports from the previous day suggested it was England who had decided to call time on his remarkable career.

Key, managing director of England men’s cricket, has confirmed the decision was taken by team management and says he, Stokes and McCullum broke the news to Anderson during an ‘hour and a half’ meeting in a Manchester hotel.

‘When we made the decision and thought we needed to meet Jimmy to discuss the future, Brendon came to the conclusion that the right thing to do was to fly over to England,’ Key told the BBC’s Test Match Special County Cricket podcast. 

‘We had a conversation for about an hour and a half, which Baz led. I don’t think Jimmy was expecting it, but I don’t think it was completely unexpected. In the back of his mind, he knew the time was coming.

‘We met Jimmy at a hotel near the station [in Manchester]. We discussed a lot of things; the future for Jimmy after playing.

Rob Key has lifted the lid on the Anderson decision

Rob Key has lifted the lid on the Anderson decision (Picture: Getty)

‘We said “look, we think it’s time for us to move on, that we have to start looking towards the future”. It’s not just the Ashes. 

‘We felt it was right that Jimmy and the public had the opportunity to say goodbye. We didn’t impress upon him that he needed to make the decision there and then. Then, not so long ago, he decided the Lord’s game would be his last.

‘Like all things, life moves on. English cricket is going to have to do without Jimmy Anderson. This is the right decision and this is the right time. Hopefully, he gets a fantastic end at Lord’s. 

‘Can you imagine what it’s like to be known as probably the greatest bowler a country has ever had? Jimmy Anderson is comfortable with that.

‘I look back with fond memories of what Jimmy has achieved. In the last two years, he’s been outstanding. He’s done everything in the game as far as Test cricket is concerned.’

England’s red-ball side face West Indies in a three-match Test series this summer before Sri Lanka arrive for another three-match contest.

The team lost Anderson’s long-time opening partner Stuart Broad last summer after he retired following the conclusion of the drawn Ashes series.

Key admits Anderson’s departure will ‘leave a hole’ in English cricket but insists emerging players need a chance to establish themselves as England begin to prepare for next summer’s home series against India and an Ashes series in Australia in 18 months time.

‘People need the opportunity to learn to bowl with the new ball, to go through a day’s worth of Test cricket and realise they have to back it up the next day,’ Key added. ‘Now is the time for people to start learning that.

‘It leaves a hole in many ways. No one is more skilled with the new ball. He understands what is required at that level. Guys are going to have to go through the journey he has.

‘They won’t reach the heights he has; nobody will probably with the way the game is going. But it’s an opportunity for someone else. There’s opportunities for so many people now.’

With exactly 700 Test wickets, Anderson needs eight more against the West Indies to equal the 708 amassed by Australia legend Shane Warne.

England are losing Anderson and Stuart Broad in the space of a year

England are losing Anderson and Stuart Broad in the space of a year (Picture: Getty)

The Lord’s Test will provide England fans with a chance to celebrate Anderson’s sensational career but the Windies have warned they want to ‘ruin’ his farewell as they target an away win.

‘He’s a great fast bowler, probably one of the greatest,’ said West Indies seamer Kemar Roach, who has enjoyed a productive start to the season for County Championship leaders Surrey.

‘It’s sad to see him go, but we all know you can’t play forever. That first Test match against us – hopefully we ruin it. I wish him all the best after that match and hopefully he enjoys whatever comes next.’

Anderson, who has taken his Test wickets at an average of 26.52, made his international debut in 2002 and remains England’s ODI record wicket-taker despite not playing the format in almost a decade.

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