Tag: Graeme Swann (page 1 of 2)

Graeme Swann was more than a quarter of an attack

Better than Richard Dawson

Graeme Swann’s retirement seems somehow emblematic of England’s current state. It sounds like he’s been aware of reduced efficacy for a while now, but could put it to the back of his mind so long as England were winning. Now they’re losing and the ensuing clarity has shunted a memorable bloke out of the game.

The four-man attack

Reacting to Swann’s retirement, Darren Lehmann said:

“He’s a big player when they’ve only got four bowlers – or now they’ve got five with Stokes in their side – and you have to try and take one or two of them out of the equation and make their quicks bowl more.”

That’s a pretty good explanation of why Swann has been so important for England. It really is more than the wickets. We wrote about this back in 2009 and used the word ‘linchpin’. That word’s both overused and misused, but it’s entirely appropriate here. England’s entire strategy revolved around Swann and it was also he who ensured the wheels didn’t come off.

Swann simply couldn’t afford to have a bad day. Batsmen get ducks and pace bowlers shoulder a lighter workload when measured in overs. Swann’s performances were therefore disporportionately influential. Even when he wasn’t taking wickets, he had to be able to eat time on unfriendly pitches so that each of the three seamers could rest.

Even without the wickets, runs and catches, Swann was a facilitator. He allowed the pace bowlers to perform at their best and he allowed England to pick a sixth specialist batsman.

Until now

The plan outlined by Lehmann is pretty much the same one everyone’s gone with against England for the last five years. It’s the obvious thing to do, and yet England managed to stick with a four-man attack until two Tests ago. In other words, Swann’s been good enough to withstand these assaults until now. Read his retirement statement and it’s clear that will and body have waned in harness and that’s why it’s the right time to go.

Breadth of skills

You need to be a very adaptable player to fulfil the role of spin bowler in a four-man attack and Swann was most definitely that. He had the accuracy and intelligence to constrain on seaming wickets and he could also do the thing that defined him as a Test bowler.

Graeme Swann was not a spinner who gradually eased into a spell. He dismissed Gautam Gambhir and Rahul Dravid in his first over in Test cricket and this was in no way aberrative. His first over was always worth watching and this was especially the case when bowling to a left-handed batsman.

One ball to size them up and then a second to dismiss them.

Plus he could catch, plus he could bat – okay, maybe he couldn’t bat, but he could hit fours – and perhaps most importantly of all, he has the priceless and rare ability to cut through the shit.

Ask a stupid question, get a decent answer

Swann’s not a comedian, but he can certainly make you laugh – you know, like normal people do and like sportsmen conspicuously don’t. Interviews were like actual conversations rather than strange set-pieces played out according to constrictive regulations. If he saw an opportunity to say something that might amuse him, he would take it.

For example, how did he break it to Alastair Cook that he would be retiring?

“He is one of my best mates so it should have been a very easy conversation but it actually made it doubly hard, just to sit down over a coffee and blurt it out. It was like one of his team talks – it didn’t make any sense. But I got it out in the end.”

Graeme, you will be missed more than most.

Something a cricketer shouldn’t say on Twitter

We’ve done our usual Twitter thing for Cricinfo, but you’ll notice we haven’t mentioned Ryan Harris and his Al Swearengen style whinge about not being let into some casino. Nor have we mentioned Graeme Swann.

If you don’t already know, Swann’s receiving criticism for likening England’s Ashes defeat to being “arse raped”. He has apologised, saying that the comment was ‘crass and thoughtless in the extreme’ which seems a fairly accurate assessment to us.

However, when questioned by the Daily Telegraph, Yvonne Traynor, the chief executive of Rape Crisis, said:

“We are appalled that Graeme Swann equates a cricket match with the devastatingly serious crime of rape. It is the duty of people in the public eye to make sure that their own distorted views are kept to themselves and not shared with the general public. These comments lack compassion and intelligence and he should apologise to anyone who has suffered from this heinous crime.”

This begs a question. Why is it that when Alastair Cook says that Ashes cricket is ‘pretty much a war’ or when David Lloyd suggests that the opposition has been ‘murdered’ no-one sees it as anything other than hyperbole, but when an intelligent cricketer uses the word ‘rape’, some assume him to have ‘distorted views’?

You don’t have to know Graeme Swann particularly well to know that he is not in favour of rape. Chances are, he used the word precisely because it seemed somehow more severe than anything that implied homicide or genocide. Life-taking language has had its power eroded through frequency of use.

Graeme Swann’s crime is perhaps to have forgotten that certain words will be leapt upon, regardless of the true intent behind their usage. The only real difference between what he said and what professional writers say about sport daily is that society isn’t currently numb to the meaning of the word ‘rape’. Maybe he could have tested the water with ‘euthanised’ or ‘executed’ instead to see where we stand with those.

Footmarks for the spinner

Graeme Swann about to play a delightful backhand slice

It’s a strange and wonderful sport where two members of the opposition who aren’t even on the pitch can aid your cause, but Graeme Swann can thank Trent Boult and Neil Wagner for three of his four wickets.

The two left-armers created some beautifully scruffy turf for him to aim at and the added purchase meant the ball did plenty more than you would ordinarily expect. People talk like it’s surprising when the ball turns so early in the match, but pitches don’t wear uniformly. Even after just one innings, the footmarks from two left-armers probably provide Swann with more rough than on the fifth day of any other Test match.

Unless you’re Sri Lanka in the Murali era (“Hey, you’re left handed and have quite big feet. I don’t suppose you’re free for a bit of seam bowling between Thursday and Monday, are you?”) you don’t pick your bowlers for the by-products of their endeavours. Yet footmarks can lead to crucial wickets and can therefore decide a match.

What a wonderfully complex sport. Imagine explaining this to someone new to cricket. Imagine having to explain spin bowling and the impact of the rough. Now imagine the person saying in a loud, booming, almost certainly American voice: “You know what they should do. They should bowl from the other side of the stumps so the rough patches aren’t in the right place for him.”

Actually, don’t imagine that. It’s too irritating.

Graeme Swann, his cat and drink driving

The cat engineered this situation as revenge for being forced to eat dry food

Another day, another cricket story where all the most important facts are being omitted. Graeme Swann’s defence for being caught driving while slightly under the influence at 3am was that he had to go and get some screwdrivers from Asda because the cat was caught under the floorboards.

So many questions unanswered:

  • Does the cat piss in his kit bag to claim it as its own?
  • Why doesn’t Graeme own any screwdrivers? What does he use to ruin screw heads so that no-one can ever get them out again?
  • Why does he drive a sportscar?
  • What had he been drinking?
  • Has the cat apologised for being an idiot?

As a spin bowler, Graeme Swann is England’s most important player

Hopefully no-one’s told him yet and hopefully he never realises, but England’s performance hinges on how well Graeme Swann plays.

Obviously, taking nine wickets for not a lot had a huge impact on how England won this Test, but nowadays Swann HAS to perform.

That’s not because England’s other bowlers are mediocre. They’re not. It’s because England are only picking four bowlers and Swann is therefore bowling far more than a quarter of his side’s overs. If he bowls badly, the seamers have to get through more work, meaning they bowl worse.

On top of that, being the sole spinner, Swann’s got to be the man taking wickets on fifth day pitches as well. His batting is merely a bonus.

We move that all words such as ‘talisman’ and ‘linchpin’ be reclaimed from Andrew Flintoff and are instead applied to the chinny tweaker.

Graeme Swann is probably underrated

Graeme Swann appeals for equality for off spinnersGraeme Swann saved England with five wickets and in an earlier pre-referral era, he might have had seven. Not bad for an off-spinner in the first innings of a match.

Not bad for an off-spinner in any innings, many say. Maybe Warne and Murali are to blame, but everyone thinks you need mystery these days. You don’t. It helps, but it’s not like a spin bowler can’t take wickets with turn and a bit of nous.

Swann compliments tend to take the form ‘he’s doing very well considering’. Graeme Swann’s doing well full stop: 53 Test wickets at 29.60. In this day and age, that’s actually pretty special.

It’s a tough life being a spinner because you’re generally on your own. Fail to take wickets in the fourth innings and everyone says you’re rubbish; that you should always take wickets when conditions are in your favour. Yet batsmen always have conditions in their favour and they all fail often enough. Batsmen have the benefit of six or seven mates to support them though.

Swanny’s alone and he’s doing all right.

Graeme Swann interviews

You want Graeme Swann to be man of the match every time he plays, because he’s head and shoulders above everyone else in world cricket when it comes to the post-match interview.

Today’s offering after a consolation win that followed six consecutive defeats:

“Everyone talks about this big word ‘momentum’. We’re on a roll now, aren’t we?”

He’s such a consistent performer these days. There are a lot of young players who could learn a lot by poring over some of Swann’s interviews on the laptop.

Graeme Swann’s joyous bat throwing

Graeme Swann does Mushy proudAfter his lower order skittering, Graeme Swann claimed that Mushtaq Ahmed was his batting mentor. Graeme Swann’s pleasingly unafraid to tell outright lies every now and again, but we think he was serious about this.

Mushtaq Ahmed shouldn’t be anybody’s batting mentor. You can’t just find the nearest person who’s older than you, call them a mentor and hope something productive comes out of it. Where would we be if Kris Kross had used some passing wino as a mentor?

Actually, maybe they did, judging by the fact that they wore all their clothes backwards for no discernable reason whatsoever. And thinking about it, Kris Kross didn’t make a huge contribution to the world in which we live. They could have had Mark E Smith as a mentor and achieved no less.

Mark E Smith’s not our mentor, but we do consider him a role model.

Graeme Swann loves dismissing left-hand batsmen

Graeme Swann fights the good fight

We dare say Graeme Swann quite likes dismissing right-hand batsmen as well, but he doesn’t do it half as often.

Of his six wickets in this match, only one was right-handed – Jerome Taylor. This is by no means unusual for Swann. Against right-handers he looks an everyday bowler. Against left-handers, he bowls one ball to size them up and then dismisses them with the second ball.

Good. Test cricket’s long been sullied with more than its fair share of cack-handers; weaselling around, stinking up the place with their sickening wrong-handedness.

It’s almost like they don’t know it’s a genetic flaw. It’s like they think they’re as good as normal people. We’ve even heard rumours that at some grounds they’re allowed to use the same changing rooms as the right-handed players.

Graeme Swann takes five Test wickets

Some kind of trendy dance or summat

It’s a big deal. Andrew Flintoff pretty much never manages it and he’s supposed to be the best bowler since the Bowlinator 9000 perfected the 95mph googly.

We don’t know for sure whether anyone ever followed our instructions as to how to help Graeme Swann into the England side from back in 2006, but it seems highly likely that someone did. Who says that persistent, mindless, entirely inappropriate shouting with no regard for the legal consequences never paid dividends?

Graeme Swann is bowling pretty well, batting a bit better, proving us right and acting as one of the better interviewees in Test cricket. We should be pretty happy, but the edge is taken off a bit because his presence constantly reminds us that Monty isn’t in the side.

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