Boxing Day hopeful Jackson Bird has issued a subtle rebuke of England’s James Anderson, declaring the success of ‘s frontline attack was in part due to the depth of talent across the country.
Anderson, England’s greatest wicket-taker, raised eyebrows in the n camp with his claims that the fast-bowling talent below Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood was weak.
Bird is in line to replace the injured Starc (bruised heel) for the Melbourne Test unless the spearhead can prove his fitness at training on Sunday. The fast bowlers were given the afternoon off from net work on Saturday, while wicketkeeper Tim Paine is expected to arrive in town in time for Sunday’s session. Paine has remained in Tasmania after his father-in-law suffered a stroke.
Bird played the last of his eight Tests a year ago against Pakistan at the MCG but has been on Test tours of India and Bangladesh since. He said any added motivation from Anderson was not needed.
“It doesn’t really bother me too much what was said. I don’t think I need any extra motivation to play in the Boxing Day Test match against England. That’s all the motivation I need,” he said.
“I don’t read too much into what the opposition say about us. I think our bowlers, our frontline bowlers, have shown what they can do and they have got plenty of wickets every game.
“Those guys are at the level they are at now because we have guys that are pushing them and keeping them honest in their spot in the side. I think every good team needs to have competition from outside the squad and I think has got that at the moment.”
Anderson had told a BBC podcast: “They’ve had three bowlers who all can bowl 90 miles an hour and they’ve stayed fit for three games but, you look beyond that, and they’ve got problems. [James] Pattinson’s injured. [Nathan] Coulter-Nile is injured. They haven’t got much other than these three.”
While Bird toured India and Bangladesh, he was twice overlooked for selection during those Test series by players from outside the squad. Selectors drafted Cummins into the XI in India when Starc was hurt, while spinner Steve O’Keefe went to Bangladesh after the first Test when Hazlewood was injured.
He admitted it had been a frustrating year but said he would be ready to take on England after finding form in the Sheffield Shield with Tasmania and in the WACA nets last week.
“It’s a little bit frustrating to not get an opportunity but I am completely realistic in where I sit with all the fast bowlers,” he said.
“They are all world-class fast bowlers and I am under no illusions where I sit behind those guys. I have just got to prepare as if I am going to play and I just need to be ready to go if any of those guys don’t come up. That’s the spot I am in at the moment – I am not complaining at all. I am in a better spot than some blokes are.”
He admitted his frustration had been exacerbated by “some of the circumstances” over the past year.
“The conditions that we played in probably didn’t help my cause as well. A lot of those Tests were in the subcontinent. It is frustrating missing out and some of the circumstances over the 12 months made it a little bit more frustrating but that’s the way it goes sometimes. You have got to cop it on the chin – I can’t complain too much about it,” he said.
“Obviously, in Bangladesh when they flew Steve Smith over, we ended up winning the Test match so it turned out to be the right selection. Being so close and missing out at the last minute, it is a little bit frustrating but, as I said, I am in a pretty good position now.”
Bird does not boast the same pace as Cummins and Hazlewood and will rely more on guile and a more than effective bouncer against the tourists. He knows how to claim big wickets, having dismissed Pakistan captain Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan at the MCG last year.
He said it was important to hit the drop-in pitch “as hard as you can” on the opening two days, with reverse swing prevalent later in the game.
The hosts have targeted England’s tail with a short-pitched attack, and Bird said his bouncer would come into play.
“It’s not something that I bowl all the time. I, obviously, don’t have the pace some of the other guys do. I bowl it every now and again. Being tall, I don’t find it a hard delivery to bowl. If I get a game, that will certainly come into it,” he said.