James Anderson is already steeling himself for life as an England cricketer without his “idol” Alastair Cook by his side.
Anderson, at 36 the world’s all-time most successful pace bowler after surpassing Glenn McGrath when he moved to 564 Test wickets against India at The Oval, insists he has no thoughts of retirement as yet.
But as he casts his mind forward to this autumn’s impending tour of Sri Lanka, then another to the West Indies next spring before the 2019 home Ashes, he admits it will be a wrench to know Cook will not be there.
The two great friends have been constant pillars of the Test team for more than a decade – and together, they achieved a perfect send-off for Cook in England’s last match of the summer.
READ MORE: Anderson’s Test career in numbers
After national record runscorer Cook had signed off with a century in the final innings of his 161-Test career, a day later Anderson duly passed Australia great McGrath with the last wicket of a 118-run victory which gave England a 4-1 Specsavers series success over the world’s number one team.
Immediately, after knocking out tailender Mohammed Shami’s middle-stump, the veteran seamer sought out his best mate as England walked off in triumph and their two record-breakers shared a last special moment on the pitch together.
“I guess I was emotional, because he’s not going to be there for those times any more,” said Anderson.
“He’s been a very good friend, but he’s (also) been someone I look up to.
“His work ethic and the way he conducts himself, he’s a real idol not to just me but to the rest of the team.
“We’ll still be very good friends – but I’ll just miss him on tours, in dressing-rooms … just that shoulder to lean on when it’s not going that well.”
There was a heroes’ reception for both, of course, from the Oval crowd.
“I think it speaks volumes for him,” added Anderson.
“He’s an amazing guy, an amazing bloke.
“(He’s) so solid, down to earth and (he) really cares about people, cares about English cricket.”
As for his own playing future, Anderson does not discount that – as with Australia great McGrath – the realisation it is his time to go too may come suddenly.
But at present, he is not expecting it.
“I’ll try to get myself in the best condition possible to cope with the rigours of bowling seam in Sri Lanka – which could be tough,” he said.
“Then we’ll see how it goes.
“I read something that Glenn McGrath said he went into the 2006 Ashes with no intention of retiring – and by the end of it he thought his time was up.
“That could happen to me. Who knows?
“(But) I don’t like looking too far ahead. I don’t think it helps me or the team either. If you look too far ahead you take your eye off the here and now.”
Anderson may be set for the briefest of rests as England have made him, his Lancashire team-mates Jos Buttler and Keaton Jennings and Worcestershire’s Moeen Ali available for this weekend’s Vitality Blast finals day at Edgbaston.
Jennings and Moeen are also both free to play in their clubs’ final Specsavers County Championship fixtures at the end of this month – while the availability of Anderson and his England pace partner Stuart Broad for that last round will be confirmed later.