To Geoffrey Boycott it was an honest and brave decision but it is Angus Fraser’s summation I prefer. Graeme Swann has picked up a nasty dose of, to borrow Fraser’s phrase, “cake-and-eat-it syndrome”.
There can be no questioning Swann’s career, his importance to England over the last five years. A bright presence on the pitch and in the dressing room, a late bloomer who appreciated it was, when all was hit and done, a game and that is an admirable quality in a modern-day sportsman, especially one who has made the very top.
Swann was a match winner right up to this last Ashes-winning summer and a good team man but the struggle – which comes to all – to maintain the first as the sporting years close in appears to have blinded him to minding the latter.
Swann willingly took the king’s shilling, signed up to serve his country for the Ashes, for five Test matches as one of Alastair Cook’s key lieutenants, for better and for worse. The fact that it has all gone a great deal worse than he or just about anyone outside Australia imagined does not immediately trigger a release clause for him to return home.
Swann was a senior pro, a cornerstone of the side – a status Australia recognised in their plan to go after him. It worked and their target has given up, although he says it is a bad elbow rather than a cricked neck from watching the ball disappear over the ropes.
Swann underwent an operation on the elbow in the spring and all is clearly not well. The end was nigh-ish and he may have been dropped for Melbourne but this is a team sport, and Swann, who will be remembered as one of England’s great spinners having surpassed all who have come before him including the great Jim Laker, has put himself before the team he has been such an illustrious member of.
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