Fame is the spur, not statistics - Swann
Graeme Swann, the most successful spinner in England Test history and a driving force behind their recent Test series win in India, has said that it his sense of winning a place in cricket history, rather than setting new statistical standards, which gives him the most satisfaction in playing the game.
In an ebullient and revealing interview with Alison Mitchell, Swann made light of the fact that during the India series he surpassed Jim Laker as the leading Test wicket-taker among England offspinners of all time.
"I am more interested in history than stats, if that makes sense," he said. "People who play the game with a desperation to average 40 or desperate to score a hundred against each team, things like that, personally I feel it is a selfish way to go about it.
"I love the fact that if your name is known and you are remembered in cricket history then statistics go out of the window. Nobody can tell you anyone's average, apart from Don Bradman's because that was exceptional."
Swann jokes that his ability to surpass Laker as the most successful England offspinner in history has something in common with Dynamo Magician, the 30-year-old Bradford-born magician, Steven Frayne, who sprung to fame when he walked across the River Thames in front of the Houses of Parliament two years ago.
"It is a lot of smoke and mirrors," he said. "Everybody thinks if you are not a mystery spinner you can't take wickets, but if you look at most wickets taken in the world the ball doesn't do anything ridiculous. There might be one in ten. The batsmen just get themselves out. It's like a game of chess when you are bowling. You just try to win as many battles as you can."
Swann's ability to handle the pressure of Test cricket, he believes, also plays a part. "I can bowl at a guy in a county game and freed up from the pressure they are suddenly the best player in the world. If you are not fazed by the pressure it plays into your hands.
"I am quite subdued when I bowl. I don't say anything to the batsman. I don't try to whip up a storm of excitement around the bat. But I hope they think I am working to a plan."
Swann does become more passionate, though, when errors are made in the field off his bowling, something he often promises to control but suspects he never quite will. "It's not so much dropped catches I get angry about," he said. "I get exasperated if a catch is dropped. I get angry if players aren't watching or are in the wrong place. Bowlers mess up in the field because they are not as athletic but batsmen don't concentrate."
Swann spends most of his time at slip, where conversation with England's Test and one-day captain, Alastair Cook, often strays into farming territory. "Me and Matty Prior reckon we could have our own lambing season with all he has told us about putting his hand up sheep's bottoms," Swann said.