Swann prepared for South Africa return

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The Independent Online

Ashes hero Graeme Swann has come full circle since his first England tour and on the eve of his South Africa return admitted he nearly gave up cricket altogether during his downward spiral.

Swann was in the tour party of 1999-2000 and made his one-day debut but missing the team bus after oversleeping put him out of favour with coach Duncan Fletcher, meaning the off-spinner waited more than seven years to represent his country again.



While at Northamptonshire and with his international career appearing to be in tatters, Swann contemplated a media career and certainly did not envisage the spectacular return to the England fold he has enjoyed in the last year.



"When I was playing at Northants at the end I couldn't have been further away from playing for England," said the 30-year-old. "I didn't even want to play cricket - for Northants or Northampton Saints, let alone England. I wanted to give up and become a hack.



"There was a lot of time when I couldn't imagine playing for England again."



Swann now has 12 Tests under his belt after making his debut in India last December and establishing himself as England's number-one slow bowler since.



After playing his role in defeating Australia in the summer, he was in the Champions Trophy squad and returned the hotel in South Africa where he slept-in.



"I woke up and thought I was an hour late but I was four hours early and suffering with jet-lag," he said.



"Since that first tour I started taking two alarm clocks everywhere but got one nicked in the West Indies. I'm back to one so if I'm late it's not my fault."



Swann's focus is on keeping his place in the England team and retaining the Ashes in Australia next year.



"I daren't look further than the next 18 months," he said, speaking at the launch of the Vodafone 360 Samsung H1.



"You're meant to say you're focusing on the next match but I want to keep performing and doing well, hopefully winning in South Africa, because to be in the team with the chance to retain the Ashes over there really whets my appetite."



South Africa have been billed by some as a tougher test than Australia, but Swann insists the Ashes is the all-important series. His only regret is not being allowed to celebrate properly after victory at The Oval won the little urn back.



"For an Englishman, Australia home or away is the best challenge there is - you grow up wanting to play in the Ashes. They still have the best player in the world in Ricky Ponting, and Michael Clarke wasn't far behind him in the summer.



"In 2005 they deservedly got drunk for two days. That is how it should have been. Their results over the next 18 months had nothing to do with that whatsover. There were injuries and a few diminishing players at the end of their careers.



"We didn't get the chance to celebrate the Ashes, we weren't almost allowed to celebrate because it was such a public-relations thing. I'm wondering what we have to do to start celebrating."



During the Ashes series, Swann gained a huge following on his Twitter account.



Tim Bresnan had to apologise for a rant on the social-networking site but there has been no directive from the England and Wales Cricket Board to curb 'Tweets'.



"I'd be the first to find out if there was a code of ethics," Swann said. "I'm sure it will be intimated to us to be careful, knowing that anyone can follow us.



"Bresi was new to Twitter and he's a Yorkshire fast bowler - putting an electrical gadget in his hand was never going to be a good combination.



"I can understand the worry from above but as far as I'm concerned it's a harmless medium. It would be a shame if it needs to be censored."

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