Off colour – but is this the start of a Swann dive?

There is a suspicion that the influence of spinner, who has average of 80 in India series, is on the wane

England's final ascent to the summit has been peculiar in one remarkable respect. The man taking the back seat, almost its sole occupant, is the same fellow who has spent most of his Test career jostling for position at the front, often doing the driving and stamping the tickets.

The abiding image of Graeme Swann so far in this series against India is of the Desperate Dan jaw jutting towards the boundary following the path of the ball. He received some fearful tap in the first innings at Trent Bridge during the second Test and was once again disdainfully treated at Edgbaston last week.

His four wickets in the series so far have cost 80 runs each and he is taking them at a rate of every 109 balls. This is not only back-seat stuff, it is curling up in it and hoping everything might all go way, especially when his total of 144 Test wickets have cost under 30 runs apiece.

"It's no surprise when your seamers are bowling so well at one end and it's swinging round," Swann said yesterday. "It doesn't take a genius to work out who you're going to attack when the little finger spinner comes on. I wouldn't say it's frustrating for me, it's quite nice because as I've said before I'm an inherently lazy person and I quite enjoy other people doing the hard yards.

"It would be nice to play a little bit more of a role in a couple of the games. The games at Lord's and Trent Bridge were as unfriendly to spinners as any I've played in, so I was more than happy that the other guys were taking the wickets because it may have created a bit more attention about how badly I bowled at Trent Bridge had we not won that game."

This is unusual because Swann has played such an instrumental role in every series he has played so far – from the moment he took two wickets in his first over in a Test match at Chennai in December 2008. In at least one match in each series, usually more, he has played an influential role.

The pitch and weather conditions have been largely the reasons for his lack of prominence but then they were seamer-friendly pitches for the Pakistan series last summer and Swann was still conspicuous. There is just the suspicion, as he showed at Trent Bridge where he could not adjust his length appropriately or judge the pace correctly, that he is not the influence he once was.

"I wouldn't say I'm firing on all cylinders," he said. "That's a case of not getting as many overs under your belt in a summer as you'd want. I have bowled well in patches in this series. I was quite happy with the way I bowled at Edgbaston, I was disgusted with the way I bowled at Trent Bridge. That's becoming a Test ground where I'm going to start asking for annual leave whenever we play there."

There was one lovely spell at Lord's after lunch on the fifth day when, wheeling away from the Pavilion End, he was largely responsible for keeping Sachin Tendulkar quiet (he went scoreless for 38 balls) which opened the way for the new-ball blitz that did for India.

Swann is one of the smartest cricketers around and he knows that it cannot always be like this. The Oval, where the fourth Test begins tomorrow, has been kind to him in the past. Two Test matches, against Australia and Pakistan, have yielded 15 wickets. But there is business beyond that in the United Arab Emirates against Pakistan and in Sri Lanka early next year.

"The next big challenge for me is those games in the winter," he said. "As a team we have got to No 1 in the world and I'm sure when we sit down and talk about it in a few weeks' time it will be about how we're going to stay there for as long as we can. I would be very surprised if it was anything but that.

"But for me I just look at the next few series and think about how I am going to play a significant part and keep my job. I want to keep playing for England as long as I can and I know that during the winter if we go away and I don't perform then people start snapping at my heels. They're the sort of tours we need to prove we can win and win well to stay No 1."

Swann is under no immediate pressure. The seam cupboard is well-stocked at present, the one marked spin is as usual all but bare. Whoever goes as the second spinner – Monty Panesar has taken more Championship wickets in 2011 than any other, Samit Patel's have come cheaper – will stay that way.

England trained at The Oval yesterday with more zeal than India, who decided not only to start their session later than scheduled but to make it optional. They have probably worked out that whatever they do now will make no difference to the overall impression of the series. Maybe it will work.

The home side's practice was not optional. They remain optimistic that James Anderson who has a quadriceps injury will play. He has reached such splendid form again that he will not wish to waste it on the treatment table. But the fact that England have called up Graham Onions indicates doubt.

Swann's waning: Graeme Swann has struggled to reproduce his best form against India



M/W/Ave con/SR/Best

Before 32/140/27.72/2.86/57.5/6/65

v India 3/4/80.25/4.39/109.5/2/88

Overall 35/144/29.18/2.96/58.9/6/65

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash