England spinner Graeme Swann surprised many this morning by announcing his retirement from international cricket effective immediately.
It sends shock-waves to an England camp already under-fire for a dismal performance so far in the Ashes. Swann was undoubtedly England’s number 1 spinner, however his decision to retire mid-way through an important Ashes campaign still with two tests to go raises some eye-brows.
Swann said he had thought long and hard about his decision to quit and described it as being ‘selfish’ if he had stayed. ‘I told Andy (Flower) and Cook yesterday [of his decision to retire]… [and] the rest of the team this morning. Andy kept asking me again and again and again if I was sure. I was. They have all been supportive of my decision.’ He said the conversation that he had with Cook to tell him of his decision was not easy. “It was like one of his team talks, it didn’t make any sense. But I got it out in the end.”
Graeme Swann was composed at this morning’s press conference and spoke matter-of-factly. He mentioned that the wear and tear of bowling in international cricket had finally caught up with him. “My body does not like five-day cricket, and mid-way through the Perth test, I knew I had enough and could not go on like this.”
Swann’s departure leaves a gaping hole in England’s spin bowling stocks, but he believed that Monty Panesar had the ability to take on the role of lead spinner. “I think Monty’s going to come in and do a great job in this game coming up this week…I’m an England fan and I want to see England cricket No.1 in the world, winning games and winning Ashes series. I think the core of that team in the change room are the guys to do that.”
Swann leaves the game as one of England’s best spinners of all time. He made his debut at the age of 29 in 2008 and finishes up as England’s sixth leading wicket taker behind Derek Underwood. Swann snared 255 test scalps in 60 test matches at an average of 29.94. He took 17 5-wicket hauls and on three occasions took 10 in a match. In addition to the tests, Swann represented England in 79 ODIs for 104 wickets and 39 T20Is for 51 wickets.
Over the years, many of the great spinners of the modern era have retired – starting off with Shane Warne, Anil Kumble and Muttiah Muralitharan.Since the end of 2008 however, Swann has emerged as the most prolific bowler in test cricket taking 23 wickets ahead of the next best – James Anderson (232). Broad (207) and Steyn (205) follow. This last statistic should give reason for Swann’s name to be listed as one of the best spinners of the 2000s.
Whilst it wasn’t quite the fairytale ending for Swann, he said, “I’d like to be remembered as someone who played the game with a smile on my face…maybe with the occasional snarl on the field, and as someone who walked when I nicked the ball.”
England cannot afford to dwell on Swann’s loss for too long. They will have to pick themselves up and move on. Come Boxing Day, the Aussies will be relentless in pressing for a 4-0 lead.