Swann ready to dive into role as England leader


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Few would have foreseen Graeme Swann as a captain of England. But as he revealed yesterday: "My mother's prophesy comes true at last. She always said I would captain England. I'm not sure what sport she was talking about, to be honest."

Beyond mums, however, it would have been hard to find much consensus, except perhaps among those who subscribe to the theory that a roomful of monkeys sitting in front of typewriters will eventually produce the works of Shakespeare. But there he was yesterday, Graeme Swann, who is about to be captain of the England Twenty20 team in two matches against West Indies.

He has been engaged for the position in a temporary capacity, replacing the nominated captain and vice-captain, Stuart Broad and Eoin Morgan, who are both injured. Swann thus becomes the fifth man to lead an England team in a month.

On first glance, he is a surprising choice, for Swann appears to live his entire life as if it is an audition for the role of the Artful Dodger. He is funny, engaging, mischievous, a scallywag.

But think about it for a bit, and it makes perfect sense. Swann is a serious cricketer, the top-ranked spin bowler in the world in all forms of the game. If he is the daftest boy in the room, he is also often the smartest.

"For all the persona that I give of messing around all the time it's not actually like that in the changing room," he said. "Most of the joking around I do tends to be in Jimmy Anderson, Swann, Tim Bresnan corner, poking fun at Bres. I have curbed that this week because I can't be seen to be taking the mickey out of my players."

Swann was first drafted into an international squad in 1999 when he was sent to South Africa as a 20-year-old. It is fair to say that he did not impress the new coach, Duncan Fletcher. After that tour, he spent seven years back in county cricket learning his trade.

"No-one would have believed this four or five years ago, least of all myself," said Swann. "It is surreal in a way for me to sit down to talk about leading these guys but I have always harboured ambitions of captaining at least at first-class level and it's nice that I've got a chance if only for a couple of games to try and show the inner workings of my mind, which I think are brilliant."

Serious business, but he could not resist a joke.