There’s a jingle on a popular community cricket radio commentary website for Corey Anderson to the tune of ‘Glory Glory Man United’ which states his claim to fame as the scorer of the previously record fastest century in a One-Day International, against West Indies in 2014 – off 36 balls. That’s how the burly New Zealander made his name in the cricketing world – as a big-hitter.
Since his international debut against South Africa in a Twenty20 International in Dunedin in 2012, Anderson has established himself as a batting allrounder, managing to chip in with handy overs of left-arm medium when necessary or when injuries haven’t prevented him from performing that role. A shoulder injury forced him to miss out on a majority of the last New Zealand summer, and he only returned to international action in the T20I series against South Africa earlier this year.
The Delhi Daredevils allrounder opened up to Wisden India on New Zealand’s love of allrounders, how he deals with injuries and the competition for the sole allrounder’s spot in the national side, among other things. Excerpts:
The number of people who pursue cricket in New Zealand isn’t a lot compared to other Test-playing nations. Yet, they keep producing fine allrounders. What do you put that down to?
Over the last few years, New Zealand cricket has gone from strength to strength. I think the awareness around cricket has grown and a lot more kids have started to play after that World Cup we had in New Zealand (in 2015). That’s why those tournaments can be infectious and make kids want to play. When we were kids in New Zealand, we were outdoors so often. We’ve got the green pastures and being able to run around and do everything. Being able to bat and bowl and try everything is kind of what New Zealand is renowned for, whether it be with cricket or rugby or any other sport, for that matter. We’ve always been known to give everything a go and you try and do it as long as possible until either one skill gets better than the other or you can’t play that sport any longer. That’s what it comes down to, it’s probably the culture that we’ve been brought up with. We try and give everything a go. Whether we are not very good at a skill or very good at a skill, I don’t think it has stopped us from giving it a go and trying to get better at it.
“I am a batsman who can bowl. I probably always have been like that. But with injuries, it has been tough to push my bowling to what I’d like it to be.”
During your formative years, New Zealand had several fine allrounders – Chris Cairns, Chris Harris, Scott Styris, Nathan Astle, Jacob Oram. Did that in anyway influence you to become an allrounder?
I think it did. You watch those guys on TV, they get runs and they get wickets, you looked up to them and when you play, hopefully one day you want to be that guy who takes the wickets and gets runs. In New Zealand, a lot of kids want to play for the All Blacks (national rugby team) and others want to play cricket for New Zealand, for the Black Caps. You want to be doing everything you can and obviously those guys through that period, that era, had a huge influence on my cricket. I was lucky enough to play with a handful of them on the domestic circuit and a couple of them in the international side as well. It obviously was great to watch those guys, being able to play against them and play with them and learn often as well.
Colin de Grandhomme is a similar kind of cricketer to you. Now that he is also a part of the Champions Trophy side and an integral part of the Test squad, do you see him as competition?
The main mentality we’ve got at New Zealand cricket is whether I’m playing or I’m not, it is about the team. It’s a cliché but we genuinely want anyone in the team to do well and we’ve got the theory that, whoever gets the runs, or whoever gets the wickets, it doesn’t matter as long as we are moving in the right direction as a team and we can string some wins together. But in a way, competition within the side, yes it’s a healthy competition and it keeps you on your toes. It makes sure you’re doing the right things; sometimes when it’s only you, you can get a little stagnant and you can probably get a bit lazy. It’s a healthy competition and I think New Zealand cricket is in a good place with the depth we’ve got at the moment.
Do you consider yourself a batsman who can bowl, or a bowler who can bat?
I am a batsman who can bowl. I probably always have been like that. But with injuries, it has been tough to push my bowling to what I’d like it to be. Hopefully, over a little period of time or a decent period of time, I can evolve my bowling into something that is more relied upon. I guess at the moment, I am a middle-order batter who bowls a handful of overs. But ideally, I’d like to be there, a top-order batter who can bowl my four overs in a Twenty20 or my 10 overs in a one-dayer, work on the nets probably more.
As an allrounder, does it ease the pressure somewhat when you fail in one discipline since you have the chance of making up in the other? Or does it burden you that you are in the side for your all-round abilities and have to contribute with both?
There sure is an expectation where you want to perform in both. You always want to do well but if you bat first and you get runs, it does take a little bit of pressure off you with the ball and you can express yourself a bit more knowing that you’re in the game and you’re involved and you’ve done half of your part. That’s the beauty of being an allrounder. You feel like you’re always in the game, whether you had a bad first half or you haven’t finished quite well. You’re always in the game even if you’re not feeling the best.
Are there times when you are in the zone as a batsman and not as a bowler, or vice-versa?
Yes, obviously form’s a two-way street. You know when you get some runs you feel confident and you might get hit around with the ball and you’re a little bit down on it. But if one of those aspects is thriving and doing well, it can sometimes bleed into the other. You get runs and sometimes you feel like your bowling’s a bit better because you’ve got less pressure and then vice-versa with the bat as well. It’s one of those things where if you can do well in one of them, then it kind of hopefully sways across to the other.
If you can affect the game with your batting or your bowling, it definitely leads into the other one. You just feel like you’re in the game and you feel like you’re helping the team out with whatever you’re doing. It’s a great feeling obviously if both of them come together and go well for the day. You find a lot of allrounders end up being given the man of the match award because they’ve done both aspects really well. It’s also the flow and effect from one that leads to the other.
“Competition within the side keeps you on your toes. It makes sure you’re doing the right things; sometimes when it’s only you, you can get a little stagnant and you can probably get a bit lazy.”
If you are doing well as a bowler and not as well with the bat or the other way round, how do you distribute your time in practice? Do you look to hone a skill in which you are doing well, or do you spend more time trying to improve a skill that you are not doing well in?
It’s a tough one. Sometimes, when we do well at one and badly at the other, we kind of neglect the thing that we’re doing badly at or vice-versa, for that matter. I think guys get a little bit confused with what way they have to go but you still got to even it out. You got to make sure that you’re doing the right thing and don’t panic as well. You know you’re an allrounder for a reason and you’ve been able to perform at both. You’ve got to make sure you keep doing the right things and know that they are going to work for you. If you’re not having a good time with the ball, you do your work and you make sure that you are specific in what you’re doing. You got to make sure that you’re improving, and try and stay one step ahead of the opposition.
How does the role of an allrounder change in the three different formats? Does the role of an allrounder get diluted in one version more than the other?
Sometimes it does. In T20s, you’ll find allrounders in the game a majority of the times, whether he’s asked to bowl at the top, or in the middle or at the end. In batting, he may have to bat up the top or finish the game off, he’s always in the game in T20. One-day cricket is very similar. Test match cricket is probably where it is slightly different, you know an allrounder’s job is to try to break a partnership or come in for a period of time and do a job. The big boys, the fast ones, then come in and try and get the wickets. The longer the format of the game, there are little moments in the game where an allrounder plays his part but it can tend to be — not lost in that time-frame but he’s probably not doing quite as much.
“Whether we are not very good at a skill or very good at a skill, I don’t think it has stopped us from giving it a go and trying to get better at it.”
You’ve battled a bunch of injuries since your international debut – regular back problems and the recent shoulder injury. Did you have any negative thoughts when you weren’t playing?
It’s lonely. I’d be lying if I said that you don’t think that, you coming back from it or you’re not going to be the same player or anything like that. I think it’s human, where you always think the worst. It’s a negative mindset that someone can get himself into and the obviously recurring things as well. It probably gets worse each time you do it and that’s why you know having that love of the game and making sure you want to get back, whether it means it’s the smallest of things of running around with your teammates again or that’s what we play for when we’re younger, we played just for the love of it and running around, why can’t it be the same when we get older? It’s obviously frustrating and it’s definitely true that you can get down. But it’s about the support base and making sure you’re in love with the game, it’s always the No. 1 priority.
How much have the injuries curbed your progress as a cricketer?
I think they have. Throughout this period, I’ve done well, fallen away and gotten injuries. You feel like you got to keep starting again, which is obviously frustrating. It’s too hard to predict what you could do in the future or anything like that but you’d like to think if you could get a bit of a run on doing the same thing consistently, you can string some performances together. You can have those purple patches and try and ride those waves as long as you can, but injuries tend to hinder that and stop it short when you wouldn’t like it.
What kept you going during those difficult periods?
It probably sounds funny. Obviously I have an end goal in mind, but I try to get away from cricket a bit. Sometimes when you think about it too much, it weighs you down and it starts taking its toll on you. You know you might not be quite right and you try and come back too early or push something a little bit too fast. Getting away from cricket and living life as well. As cricketers, we tend to think the whole time and 24/7 it’s cricket. You know there is more to life than cricket and how life’s probably going to start when we retire, really. We play till our mid-30sand then we start our families and have other things to have to do. I guess just making sure you’re thinking about it, the things in life other than just cricket, they tend to make your days – sometimes long and tedious – a lot more pleasing as well, with the people you have around you and the enjoyment you can have as well.
What is the support system like in New Zealand Cricket when it comes to injury management? Is there counselling for injured players, apart from treatment and rehab?
We’ve got a great medical team at New Zealand Cricket. And they are in communication with us most of the time, making sure that we’re ticking over and doing the right things and getting ready for tours. Making sure they keep assessing where we’re at, whether it means coming back for a club game or domestic game or getting ready for internationals. That’s one side of it. The other is making sure guys don’t get ahead of themselves or overload as well when they’re playing a bit too much cricket.
We get looked after pretty well. We’ve got some brilliant people at NZC who look after us pretty well, so that makes our job easy.
(With inputs from Tanya Kini)