South Africa in England 2012

Surgery 'worst fear' for Swann

Andrew McGlashan

July 30, 2012

Comments: 47 | Text size: A | A

Graeme Swann lets out a strong appeal, England v South Africa, 1st Investec Test, The Oval, 3rd day, July 21, 2012
Graeme Swann did not have much to shout about during the opening Test © Getty Images
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Players/Officials: Graeme Swann
Series/Tournaments: South Africa tour of England
Teams: England

Graeme Swann has admitted that the thought of needing surgery on his troublesome right elbow is his "worst fear" and he will try anything to get through the rest of his career without another operation.

Swann has had to manage the problem, which involves floating bone fragments very near the nerve in his elbow, for a number of years. He has been rested for some of England's one-day internationals this season and had an injection shortly before the South Africa Test series began, although he doubts its effectiveness. Memories of when he last underwent surgery in 2009 - which he described as "horrendous" - mean he will trying anything to avoid a second procedure.

"That is my worst fear at the minute," he said. "When I had surgery before it was ten times the problem it is now. There are bits of floating bone in there which are too close to the nerve. I had all the other pieces taken out but the surgeon said he had to leave these. He said they may cause you a bit of grief now and then. It is little things like if I hold the phone too long with my right hand I can't use my arm for a couple of minutes - it just goes dead.

"During the one-day series - the Aussies or West Indies I can't remember - it was really starting to ache. The break we had since really helped. I don't think the jab has done anything to be honest. I reckon it was more a hope-for-the-best jab because nothing else seemed to work. The rest from bowling for a couple of weeks did it good. There was an option to play in the Championship game this week that's going on at Trent Bridge but I think if I start doing that then I will be in a lot of trouble."

If anything was going to test the well-being of Swann's elbow it would have been last week's opening Test against South Africa where he toiled through 52 wicketless overs as South Africa piled up 637 for 2. He insisted he felt no ill-effects from two days in the field although he knows that the only way to manage the problem in the longer term could be to miss further matches.

"After the Oval Test my body felt strangely buoyant, quite youthful," he said. "After bowling 52 fruitless overs I should have really wanted to hang the boots up there I suppose. It was very strange. A spinner normally bowls 50 overs per Test anyway. I just got them out of the way in one fell swoop.

"If it keeps deteriorating I will undoubtedly have to miss some cricket. But it's not really deteriorated in the last three or four weeks, it feels better than it did. I'll have to cross that bridge when I come to it. I'm hoping not because realistically, if I look at the age I am and what have you, if I can just get to the end of my playing days and my arm falls off the next day sort of thing, I'm quite happy with that. I don't want to have another operation if I can help it because it's horrendous."

In terms of the immediate future, Swann is unconcerned about his lack of recent success in Test cricket. In four matches this season he has claimed just six wickets at 72.16 and while he had more of a holding role against West Indies he was expected to be a significant threat at The Oval.

"I was actually very happy with it," he said of his performance. "It felt very blunt by the end of it as you tend to when you have bowled 35 overs for no wicket. On the fourth morning it was very unpleasant bowling. I took too long to adjust to Graeme Smith to go a little bit wider - I should have done that earlier - but had he been given lbw, it was one of those that was umpire's call, we could have had a new man in and we could have bowled them out for 300.

"Anyone who bowls knows that at some point you're going to have spells when you don't take wickets," he added. "If you let that get you down it is going to be the end of your career. I still bowl against people I've bowled at a lot before and I always back myself. My consistency's always getting better. I'm always working on new things, new ways of getting people out - mentally, not physically with new balls and things."

Swann, though, would not be overly perturbed if he had to wait a little longer for a return to wicket-taking form so long as England can find a way back into the series. "You've got a new game, a new wicket - I might not even bowl. I'm fully expecting to get handed the ball just before teatime when they're seven down and there's a left-hander in. I'm an eternal optimist."

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Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Meety on (August 1, 2012, 9:09 GMT)

@the_blue_android - keep believing that buddy! I think you'll find very few successes for spinners against Oz.

Posted by JG2704 on (August 1, 2012, 8:18 GMT)

@jimmy2s on (August 01 2012, 03:44 AM GMT) Yeah , probably right there. Re tarnishing a career , Swann has just dropped out of the top 10 for the 1st time in ages - most of that time in the top 5. I'm not sure if it's the sort of injury which could get much worse the more you play with it but if it is hampering him , it is also hampering the team. I think I'd rather have a fully fit Swann for the T20WC later in the year than a half fit version now

Posted by JG2704 on (August 1, 2012, 8:18 GMT)

@the_blue_android on (July 31 2012, 22:38 PM GMT) I know (for whatever reason) you take great glee at Eng's failings but the poster is referring to home matches/series in which Eng had been unbeaten for quite a while up til now.

Posted by applethief on (August 1, 2012, 3:44 GMT)

Well this is a shame. It might sound heroic and all to battle through, whatever the cost, but cricket's only a game and not worth losing the use of a limb over. Even more so if all we see are diminishing performances that will further tarnish a career. It sounds like a tricky condition too; surely it's far better to find a way to recover from it than risk further damage just for a game?

Posted by raj_24 on (August 1, 2012, 3:33 GMT)


Dream on.

It will be some of the Indians whose career will come to an end come december.

The selfish person who has been playing for 23 yrs , where his last few yrs he has played for money and records only , his carer must come to a bitter end. but bcci fears him that is the reason even after non performance he still picks and chooses his games , preferring ipl over india games.

Posted by the_blue_android on (July 31, 2012, 22:38 GMT)

@ dscoll - 1 test? I hope you're joking. Because in our part of the world where they show test matches live on TV, England has lost 3-0 to Pakistan, drew against SL 1-1 and now will lose 3-0 against SA. Hardly signs of a # 1 test side. Only achievement of this English side is beating an out of depth Oz. Definitely signs of a side whose luck is running out and falling back into decades of agony. This bloke's career will end come December. So will the career's of Anderson and Broad ( provided they don't make up excuses to stay home citing home sickness).

Posted by MattyP1979 on (July 31, 2012, 20:32 GMT)

Eng need Swann at his best. Although not toothless without he is one of our key weapons at certain stages in the game. He had his worse perfromace IMHO in an Eng shirt last test but im sure will bouce back.

Posted by   on (July 31, 2012, 20:17 GMT)

Personally of all the replacement spinners people have mentioned here, I'd be going up to George Dockrell and asking if he fancied playing for England. He's a decent bat, fields very well, has a lot of pressure experience at international level for Ireland, and he strikes me as having a superb cricketing brain for one so young. Adil Rashid can't get into the Yorkshire team so is nowhere close to an England spot. Monty is the safe bet as you know what you're going to get with him. Kerrigan... possibly too early.

Posted by hhillbumper on (July 31, 2012, 19:11 GMT)

there are enough young England spinners floating around.Trouble is they don't get to play much except 1 day or 20-20. Kerrigan is good,Rashid might be if he moves county and grows up.We still have Monty so our cupboard is not as bare as some.As for Ashwin? Lets see shall we

Posted by dscoll on (July 31, 2012, 18:33 GMT)

It's amusing to see everyone criticising Eng for losing 1 test and forgetting the previous multiple series victories. They are still the No 1 test, and T20 team and No 2 ODI. That's the facts.

Posted by   on (July 31, 2012, 18:06 GMT)

@Maddy20. A good spinner can hit exactly the same spot at, say, 42, 50 and 58 mph which means the ball arrives through very different trajectories. Now add the ability to make it dip late (vertical movement) or swerve (lateral movement). It's during this phase a batsman has to decide how to play the ball and move into position. If he's got it wrong, it means he's off balance for the stroke and far more likely to lose his wicket irrespective if the ball turns 1" or 3'. If the bowler can't vary his flight, the batsman can play him with comfort because he'll know where the ball will bounce and be in the correct position all the time. This is why Bishan Bedi was such a delight to watch, he had it all. Swann doesn't spin the ball a mile, he deceives by flight and that's why he's so good.

Posted by the_blue_android on (July 31, 2012, 16:53 GMT)

Patchmaster - the point is The OZ are sitting ducks against ANY knocking over Oz isn't really an achievement. Even Suleiman Benn and Paul Harris got wickets against Aussies....

Posted by jezzastyles on (July 31, 2012, 13:51 GMT)

Swann's recent form in test matches in 2012 has been - 13 wickets @ 25.08 apiece vs, PAK (good), 16 wickets @ 22.19 vs. SL (very good), 6 wickets @ 47 apiece vs. WI (poor), and 0 wickets for 151 vs. SA (very poor); 35 wickets @31.83 apiece overall, slightly down on his career average, but more importantly, his form in the last 4 tests has been poor. The recent lack of wickets would seem to indicate to me that he IS playing with a persistent niggle, I don't think he's consciously using that as an excuse, but he's down on confidence as a result. He'll need to bounce back in Leeds with a much stronger performance, because if he bowls with the same lack of effectiveness as he has recently, ENG will be in deep trouble - they need him taking wickets, sharing the workload with Anderson. Where's RandyOZ, not like him to miss an opportunity to put the boot into Swann??

Posted by Venkat_Super_11 on (July 31, 2012, 13:43 GMT)

The comments under Swann's picture reveals the whole story of the first test. Well done author! "Graeme Swann did not have much to shout about during the opening Test"

Posted by JG2704 on (July 31, 2012, 13:34 GMT)

Swann's quality (or lack of if you want to think that way) as a spin bowler is obviously a source of much debate. One thing's for sure - Swann is certainly one of the if not thee biggest troll magnets out there. As for those talking about excuses , look at the comments during the UAE series. We had Bresnan (statistically our most successful bowler at the time) injured and I don't remember one comment citing anything other than (batsmen's) poor play and poor team selections coupled with Pak playing well as reasons why we lost that series.

Posted by maddy20 on (July 31, 2012, 13:06 GMT)

@Henrik Lovén You cannot always fool the batsmen in the air with just one kind of ball. Sooner or later they are gonna figure you out , get to the pitch to negate the turn or just play late. It is exactly the reason why spinners don't have much effect on sub-continental teams especially India. Even great spinners like Warne, Murali were worked out. Warne averages 40 vs India and Murali 50+. The likes of Saqlain Musthaq and Mushtaq Ahmed succeeded because their doosras/googlies were deceptive. A flighted doosra can be a disaster for the batsmen. An arm ball will often beat the batsmen through pace or because the batsman plays for turn when there is none.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (July 31, 2012, 12:56 GMT)

Poor old 'Magic Monty' hasn't been able to tick two of the boxes out of bowling/batting/fielding, so according to England selectors is lower in the food-chain than fans would like. Then there's Tredwell who's handy... Adil Rashid who didn't impress much when he wore the Three Lions... I can't really think of anybody else. Who's gonna take Swann's spot if he goes then?

Posted by anuradha_d on (July 31, 2012, 11:07 GMT)

attention seeking Swann.....loves to be in limelightz...even if it is for an injury scare

Posted by Front-Foot_lunge on (July 31, 2012, 11:05 GMT)

Yet another crack in the english set up? Where is this 'depth' the media is going on about earlier in the year...before we lost 6 from 9. Swann loves playing the 'Cheeky chappy' routine which is generally he case for people wanting to distract you away from the pitiful amount of talent he has. All this talk of him being 'great in the dressing room', is because he's so rubbish on the field! Aa an England fan, I feel he is the personification of all that is currently wrong in Team England (and south Africa), he is, to use a well worn phrase round these parts "all mouth and no trousers'. Last years christmas spate of ghost written biographies from England players shows exactly the nub of the problem. Whereas most teams go out and show how good they are, England prefers to talk about it, clutching at platitudes in the desperate hunt for credibility. The quicker we get honest the better, or the Aussies will show us up once again as the paper tigers we really are.

Posted by Munkeymomo on (July 31, 2012, 10:58 GMT)

@DeezO Why would England call up a South African spinner? They do not produce good spinners. We'll stick to nabbing their batsmen thanks.

Posted by Highflyer_GP on (July 31, 2012, 10:38 GMT)

The English have started lining up their excuses already. If Swann does well, he'll be hailed a hero for playing through an injury. If he doesn't, then it will be because he was injured.

Posted by Meety on (July 31, 2012, 10:23 GMT)

Forgot to mention, I hope the worst case scenario does eventuate.

Posted by threeslipsandagully on (July 31, 2012, 10:23 GMT)

@landsite Mendis?! Seriously? There's no doubting that he was dangerous at one time but like just about every "mystery spinner" there's ever been, he was found out. I fear Narine will end up going the same way, after that tremendous amount of hype and being told he would destroy English bowlers he looked decidedly ordinary. Mystery does not make someone a good spinner; look at someone like Shakib Al Hasan, an old-fashioned sort of bowler but one who consistently takes wickets.

Posted by Meety on (July 31, 2012, 10:10 GMT)

@ Patchmaster - enquiring minds want to know, what do you define as "...Swann knocked over Aus in the ashes twice in the last two outings.." mean? Surely you were jesting? I am a fan of Swann's but his stats v Oz are; ave 40.13, & a S/R 80.5. Is that what you call "knocking over"? Wow, the Saffas innings victory must really have gotten to your senses! LOL! @ landsite - "...must be more credible like Ashwin..." I would say posters on this site need to be more credible when posting their comments! Ashwin has a S/R of 112 against Oz (yes 112), & a bowling ave of 65+ against Oz. He may eventually be a good bowler, but the facts are Swanny is a mile ahead of Ashwin. Only Ajmal, of the bowlers you mentioned has genuine credibility at Test level atm!

Posted by fogster100 on (July 31, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

Deez0...if there are so many good spinners in SA why are you playing a Pakistani reject?

Posted by Damo_s on (July 31, 2012, 9:54 GMT)

why are people banging on about it being an excuse? At no point did he say its affecting his performance. Read the article again! There is no doubt that swann is having a lean spell, which is concerning. His bolwing seems to be just too defensive these days. I also never understood why he never developed a doosra. Its a better edge inducing weapon than the armball when there isnt much turn. IMO swann has had his day now and there are better spinners around the world (ajmal, narine). Cant see who will make a good replacement for him though. monty and tredwell seem too one dimensional. Its such a shame that rashid didnt develop.

Posted by trav29 on (July 31, 2012, 9:53 GMT)

always makes me chuckle when i see people saying that someone who has taken close to 200 test wickets at under 30 is nothing more than a "lucky" bowler

Posted by Stark62 on (July 31, 2012, 9:49 GMT)

Barring Ajmal, I don't think there is any other spinner better than him currently!!

Yes, Vettori is great but he seems to have lost his skills and that is understandable, whilst Narine had a poor series against Eng and Nz couldn't handle the spin from Bang bowlers, so how were they going to cope with Narine?

Posted by   on (July 31, 2012, 9:44 GMT)

Spin bowling is far more than simply having a number of different balls in the armoury. A class spinner deceives the batsman in the air, not primarily by the way the ball spins after it pitches. Y'see, if the batsman has read the ball correctly BEFORE IT PITCHES, his bat's going to be in the correct position at the correct time. If the spinner has deceived him in the air, his bat will be slightly off both in time and location and this is what loses the batsman his wicket. As an example, what did Gatting was the very late, slight swerwe towards leg that Shane Warne imparted. This caused Gatting reflexively to move his bat in that direction and thus he was beaten. Look it up on Youtube, you'll see it clearly. If it hadn't swung, Gatting would either have blocked that ball, padded it away (bounced outside leg) or let it sail safely away outside off.

Posted by Selassie-I on (July 31, 2012, 9:35 GMT)

Landsite, have you ever actually watched Swann play? he's a very canny spinner who gets important big wickets for England, he is especially teriffic at bowling to lefties. If this is the beginning of a slow demise it will be a great loss for us, but maybe a window for Monty to come back, he looked great in the UAE.

Posted by StoneRose on (July 31, 2012, 9:33 GMT)

Would be good to explain the Graeme Smith line a bit better, because it doesn't make sense the way it is written at the moment ("I took too long to adjust to Graeme Smith to go a little bit wider - I should have done that earlier - but had he been given lbw, it was one of those that was umpire's call, we could have had a new man in and we could have bowled them out for 300"). E.g. if he had been given LBW and it was umpires call, he would have been out, and he wasn't, so that line doesn't make sense. DId he want to go wider or not? Surely if he had gone wider there would have been LESS chance of LBW?

Posted by StaalBurgher on (July 31, 2012, 9:06 GMT)

Really unlucky to pick up injuries such as that. What caused him to have bone fragments in his elbow?

Posted by gerrardl on (July 31, 2012, 9:05 GMT)

Swann will still have a part to play in this series, undoubtedly! Too good and smart a bowler to not find a way to trouble even the best batsmen in the game. Been the best spinner in the world for some time now. Looking forward to seeing him out-bowl whichever spinner India dishes up later in the year as well :)

Posted by jameshunt on (July 31, 2012, 9:01 GMT)

@Landsite: ASHWIN?! RAVI ASHWIN?!!! The guy has played a handful of tests and got taken to the cleaners by only a fairly good batting line up - the Australians. Mendis can't take a wicket in T20 cricket, let alone make the test side. Sunial Narine has played two test matches so you can't judge him yet. Any bowler who averages under 30 these days - especially a spinner who rarely bowls at the tail, like Swann (as when the quicks are on top he often doesn't bowl), is a massive achievement. He has out-thought some of the best players of spin in the world, like Younis Khan, Dravid, Tendulkar, and Clarke. He is a better test bowler than Ashwin will ever be, and he keeps audiences in raptures during his spells.

Posted by tanstell87 on (July 31, 2012, 8:29 GMT)

i sincerely hope Anderson , Broad , Bresnan , Finn & Swann make it to India because i want to see them bowling at Wankhede Stadium in last week of November & the Indians are awaiting the series for the revenge for last year !

Posted by landsite on (July 31, 2012, 7:58 GMT)

Batsmen from every country have always had a go at Swann without any thought because he is nothing special,the Saffie batsmen have proved that,at times whenbatsmen take him on with respect he goes wicketless for very long periods.Test spinners today must be more credible like Ashwin,Narine,Ajmal and Mendis,its amazing that whenever a cricketer gets found out an ailment crops up.Swann has been a very lucky bowler with nothing more than an arm ball in his armoury.

Posted by Deez0 on (July 31, 2012, 7:44 GMT)

Unfortunate for Swann, he is a character and is good for the game.However, there are some good young spinners in South Africa...the ECB should send their pound waving scouts to some of the provincial games.

Posted by Patchmaster on (July 31, 2012, 7:39 GMT)

@ the_blue_android what excuses are you talking about ? Swann knocked over Aus in the ashes twice in the last two outings - are you now saying that ENg are going to use that as an excuse for losing ? If you are, then clearly you need to watch more cricket and learn a bit more mate. ENg are No. 1, sure they might lose to SA, but that makes them No.2, still not a bas side, and a side that's thrashed AUS twice in a row, so your point was ?

Posted by Loyd4148 on (July 31, 2012, 7:18 GMT)

Another lame excuse from Swanny, he must just respect the fact that the Proteas handle him with minimal fuss and effort. The play Hashim and Kallis in particular played him is exceptional. I still think that Swanny is a very skilled bowler, but he lacks that magical doosra delivery that the likes of Ajmal posses, and of course he's come up against Kallis, who's arguably one of the best players of spin bowling. I remember in his innings at Oval, he even slog-swept Swann for six!

Posted by Front-Foot-Lunge on (July 31, 2012, 6:32 GMT)

The jealousy and envy of Swann by fans of the teams he's consigned to the middle of the rankings know's no bounds. What England fans like myself have particularly enjoyed, is observing just so much of the envy he generates, it only poses the question: "Just who have YOU got as your spinner?....Oh yes!"

Posted by   on (July 31, 2012, 6:16 GMT)

My advise to Swann; take a break now, go and get the surgery done. It is effecting your bowling performance. England is not going to win against SA, so why put your career on line. Bow out, it is a solid reason to do so.

Posted by DevilsAd on (July 31, 2012, 4:43 GMT)

I do believe this could be his swann song.

Posted by pvwadekar on (July 31, 2012, 4:34 GMT)

Have the operation just after the the T20 WC .. then u can can "rest" and miss the Indian test tour along with Anderson and Broad .. who will have some excuses ready for example "we dont know how to bowl in the subcontinent OR we need green tops, etc"., you knwo the drill .. then you guys will loose the test 4 - 0 and also your test ranking .. and then you guys will claim that Ashes 2013. are most important .. we all know the drill here ..

Posted by landl47 on (July 31, 2012, 4:28 GMT)

Hopefully Swann will be able to carry on for another 3 years or so and give the young guys time to develop. I thought that Swann, like all the others, bowled too defensively at the Oval. He bowled at lot at Amla over the wicket and Amla just got outside the line of off stump and played everything to leg. Unless there's a stiff breeze enabling Swann to start the ball on middle and drift it to off, he ought to bowl round the wicket to right-handers. That way, the arm ball goes across the batsman and brings slip into the picture and if there's any turn, lbw is a possibility. In the next test, Swann should be attacking more. That's his natural inclination anyway.

Posted by the_blue_android on (July 31, 2012, 4:27 GMT)

And let the excuses begin!

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 31, 2012, 4:25 GMT)

I'm sure that there will be some, particularly the anti-Swann peanut gallery (you know who you are), who will say that he's just making excuses for a poor performance but I will preempt them by pointing out that he specifically says that his elbow did NOT affect him in the first Test. I'm guessing that a journalist asked him about his elbow and whether it affected him at the Oval and this is what came of it. From England's point of view, Swann is not a young man any more and, even though spinners usually last longer than other bowlers, if he may be forced to retire prematurely then they need to be looking to groom one or more of the young spinners in county cricket to take over. I'm sure they're well aware of that and are taking steps but this chronic condition just makes it that bit more urgent.

Posted by   on (July 31, 2012, 4:08 GMT)

Over rate bowler....he is not as good as other spinners we had in past.....

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Andrew McGlashanClose
Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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