Following conversations with New Zealand Cricket, Boult and the board agreed to a parting of ways that by no means ends the 33-year-old’s international career, but will see it significantly reduced. In lieu of regular appearances for the Blackcaps, his focus instead will be the franchise circuit, including two lucrative new additions in the UAE and South Africa.
NZC chief executive David White told ESPNcricinfo he does not believe this will have a knock-on effect to others within the New Zealand set-up. However Anderson, who turned 40 last month and will pick up his 173rd cap in the first Test against South Africa on Wednesday, believes Boult’s decision is a seismic event given where cricket is headed. He expects more bowlers in particular to go down this path given the rewards on offer.
Asked if he was saddened by Boult’s decision, Anderson admitted he was “because Test cricket will probably bear the brunt of it. The easiest thing to do for bowlers is bowl four overs or 20 balls. It takes nothing out of you. And if you’re getting paid just as well, it probably makes sense. It will tempt more people than not.
“It is [a big deal that Boult made this choice] because he is such a high-profile international player and I can definitely see it happening more and more now, particularly with bowlers.”
Boult’s citation of the schedule and spending more time to his family is something Anderson can appreciate. He knows his workload, significantly eased due to playing no white-ball cricket for England since the 2015 50-over World Cup, has contributed to his longevity. Likewise for his opening partner Stuart Broad, who last represented England in the limited-overs format in an ODI against South Africa in January 2016.
“I think Broady will say the same: that we were fortunate our white-ball careers pretty much ended after that World Cup and we could focus on red-ball cricket. That worked out great for us. In the future, I can see it definitely being the other way round – with people picking and choosing their formats, tours, whatever it might be.”
“I feel proud to have got to where I have,” Anderson said, reflecting on his feat of endurance. “I feel fortunate as well that I’ve still got the love for the game and the desire to get better and still do the training and the nets and whatever else that comes with it. Because with a lot of people that’s the first thing that goes, and that’s when you start slowing down and winding down. But for me, I feel like that passion is still there. So I feel fortunate for that. I feel fortunate that my body’s still functioning properly and allowing me to do the job that I love.”
As for who will be the next player to join that age-bracket, Anderson suggested his long-term partner Broad, who is already 36. However, his follow-up of who else spoke of his view of the game at the moment – a time when the future feels far more relevant than the present:
“Definitely not after that because no-one will be stupid enough. Everything that has gone in the world with franchise cricket, the Hundred, short forms of the game, I can’t see anyone wanting to play Test cricket for this long.”
As for future-proofing Test cricket, while boards need to assume most of the responsibility for doing so – if they wish – Anderson believes the current players are the ones who must continue to do their bit. Since Brendon McCullum and Ben Stokes have taken over as head coach and captain of England’s Test side, much has been made of how their style of cricket is making the longest format more attractive.
While most of that talk has been from English players, much to the derision of others, not least the Proteas who are motivated to burst the so-called “Bazball” bubble, the manner of four victories at the start of the summer against New Zealand and India has reignited the good feeling around the format. It is a responsibility Anderson feels should not be ignored.
“Even if we didn’t play this way, I still think Test cricket is an amazing format. We’ve had some brilliant series and matches, not just involving us and between other teams around the world that have been brilliant to watch. So I hope people will see that and want to be a part of it, growing up wanting to play Test cricket.
“But, yes, 100 percent our job and responsibility as Test cricketers is to promote the game and encourage as many people as possible to watch it and play it when they get older.”
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor for ESPNcricinfo