England made the fine-margin judgment to leave Anderson out of the final Test against India, which begins today in Chennai, because of “body soreness”, as they seek to avoid a 4-0 scoreline in a series already lost.
Cook may have Stuart Broad back from his own foot injury to replace his long-standing pace partner, and even spinner Liam Dawson in the reckoning for a debut.
Anderson was ruled out on the eve of the match, Cook explaining England decided the risk-reward factor did not stack up in asking the 34-year-old to play his fourth Test in a month – having toiled already through almost 80 overs for four wickets.
The captain believes it is the right call with a player who, even in advancing years, remains a prize asset England hope can add significantly to his national-record 467 Test victims.
Asked if he expects Anderson to be back for many more – after a six-and-a-half-month break before England’s next Test in July – Cook was emphatic, but admitted increasingly careful management of the veteran’s workload may be key.
“I’m very confident,” he said of Anderson’s Test future. “He can make a big contribution, a big difference to English cricket over the next couple of years.”
Anderson’s absence means he will have missed six out of 17 Tests in the past 12 months through injury, with a stress fracture of the shoulder in his bowling arm the most troublesome problem.
“I think we’re certainly going to have to manage him more than we have (previously),” added Cook. “He might miss a couple more Test matches as a precaution.”
Cook values not just Anderson’s wickets but his expert advice, and he wants to have it at his disposal for as long as possible – including in next winter’s Ashes in Australia.
“You can’t buy the experience he’s got,” he said. “It’s valuable, and we have to use that cleverly.”
Anderson has had an enviable fitness record for much of his career, and Cook believes he will last longer as a fast bowler than, for example, his former team-mate Andrew Flintoff.
“He might fly again, after a few months off now when he can really recover properly,” he said.
“He’s not Freddie Flintoff – no disrespect, but he pounded his body when bowling. Jimmy’s obviously a lot lighter and he does have a lot less wear and tear.”
Anderson is rested not just because of the shoulder which kept him out of a Lord’s Test last summer and then three matches at the start of England’s winter schedule in the sub-continent.
“It’s a bit of everything – his ankle as well and a bit of shoulder soreness,” said Cook. “We’re looking after him.”