England news January 28, 2013

Fame is the spur, not statistics - Swann

ESPNcricinfo staff

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.

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on January 30, 2013, 5:13 GMT

    @golgo_85 on (January 29 2013, 20:14 PM GMT), what you fail to consider is that, in UAE, while Panesar may have taken more wickets than Swann, Swann finished with the better average and strike rate, just as he did in India. People who claim that Panesar won the games for England in India seem to assume that England still would have won thanks to Panesar if Swann wasn't playing, but it was really only the fact that both were playing that put England ahead. They both bowled well and they both took wickets but Swann took his wickets more often and more cheaply, so exactly what criteria are you using to adjudge Panesar the better? When both were available, Strauss and Cook both seemed to prefer to bowl Monty for more overs. Maybe that was because of Swann's elbow; maybe it was because there were more right-handed batsman; maybe it was for some other reason. Regardless, the stats suggest that, if they had bowled the same number of overs, Swann would have taken more wickets for fewer runs.

  • shashwata on January 30, 2013, 5:09 GMT

    Well ,whatever you do Swanny , it really works for you. And yes ,all the fuss surrounding the mystery spinners is just... well ,fuss only. Their mystery is cracked sooner or later and then they find it a mystery to bowl against the opposition batsmen and not get hit for a boundary. Better to keep it simple, good line and length and some patience.Just what Swann does.No wonder he is so successful even in seam friendly conditions. Keep going man !

  • Sharon on January 29, 2013, 22:31 GMT

    @maddy20 (January 29 2013, 02:02 AM GMT) well well - what has happened here!? You have really changed your tune. Did you make New year resolution - "show respect to England team and fans....". Well done you have got as far as January 29. Keep it up we are all rooting for you..... :-) Btw this is humour of Graham Swann....

  • j on January 29, 2013, 22:24 GMT

    @golgo_85, When it comes to the crunch, Swann took more than Monty in the series, Swann finished with 20 in all. We all love Monty, and have done since he first started his England career, but Swann is, and always has been, judged the superior spinner.

    England rejoice at the fact that they've got two champion spinners in their armory, produced by the excellent English county system.

    What's more - This is all happening at a time when Australia's 'spin' department is comically at the lowest point in all cricket history.

  • j on January 29, 2013, 21:33 GMT

    golgo_85: We're closer than you think mate. No doubt Eng would've won the first test with Monty playing, but only because the two together are so potent. Swann took a five-fer in that 1st test, and what happened there was identical to that of the ill-prepared-for UAE tour, in which England's top order found themselves Down The Rabbit Hole with Alice and a game plan in tatters. Swanny, with Anderson (who had already established himself as a flat-deck specialist by then too), had to support the entire Eng game plan because of a low first innings' score. And Swanny played injured, which is something you'd certainly never find the Aussies doing. You fail to mention too that his main competitor that series was one who most find to have a somewhat illegitimate action, to put it mildly, and cannot even be in contention here. As for the rip he gets, you really should check out the replays of him on green and flat tops in England in the last few years, not to mention his recent exploits :)

  • Md Risalat on January 29, 2013, 20:14 GMT

    Front foot lunge - it's baffling how you can claim that Swann is the biggest turner of the ball since Warne???? Not even for England!!! Hands down, Panesar has been a far bigger turner, I found it laughable all these years that, ECB decided not to select him simply cause he wasn't much of a fielder??? If Panesar had played the 1st Test, England would've probably won the series 2-0 if not 3-0. Biggest turners since Warne - McGill, Murali, Saqlain, Panesar, Ajmal, Shakib. Who are you kidding when you say Swann is the best in the world?? The crown solely belongs to Saeed Ajmal. Have you seen this guy bowl? Ajmal and Swann bowled side by side, only Panesar came close to competing. Swann is more effective in the way Vettori used to be. It's bad luck that his best spinner in the world tag didn't last long, Saeed Ajmal arrived with new brand of wizardry. I don't see him standing out anymore cause of the arrival of Mendis and Narine. Again, Panesar over Swann anyday.

  • Rob on January 29, 2013, 17:26 GMT

    maddy20 on (January 29 2013, 02:02 AM GMT) I like your post, Swanny often talks a bit tongue in cheek with a wee bit of mischief, people should stop being so serious and defensive, cricket is meant to be entertainment. Relax and count to ten before posting offensive and frankly childish 'responses'.Swann has not named any specific players and why do some people presume it is about Tendo, his average is way over 40 maybe he was talking about Boycs! I posted earlier that stats are not everything take Flintoff for instance- anyone who watched his when he was at his peak knows how good he was, yet he often did not get the rewards and the other bowlers did as batsmen tried to score after being strangled by Freddie and got out. His test average (bowling) is higher than Watto's but not even the most myopic Ozzie (RandyJones) would claim he is a better bowler, he is definetly a better batsman by the way.

  • Rutger on January 29, 2013, 15:34 GMT

    Good on ya Swann! Indeed a funny guy and he seems to take himself not too serious. Best spinner ive ever seen play for Eng and imo, together with Cook and Prior, the main reason why england really got something to say in world testcricket nowadays. 200+ wickets at an average below 30 and an economy below 3 says it all how consistent he has been for the last 4 or 5 years. Also obv a really good one day player, a more than handy late order batsman and a decent slip fielder. Ok he drops a few but Eng are usually carrying their spinners once they are on the field (the likes of Monty, Such, Tufnell etc) and apparantly they dont have many really good slippers atm. So its a real bonus ur spinner gives u a decent option.

  • j on January 29, 2013, 14:25 GMT

    @Al_Bundy1, Unfortunately the other bowler you mentioned has to be left out due to his action being question by many. Swann bowls as per the textbook, so naturally is, and without question, the best in the world. "Keep your arm straight, and brush your ear during delivery" - that's how bowlers are taught, in England at least. You don't see any English spinner bowling un-orthodox, which is why people say they play by the rulebook, how the game was first invented to be played. You wither throw the ball, or you bowl it. Swann, as we all know, bowls it. What's more, he's the long-established biggest turner of the ball i the world and has been since Warne. Not even RandyOz can bring himself to talk about Swann any more because of this, especially given the last five years of Ashes history.

  • paul on January 29, 2013, 13:49 GMT

    I don't buy into this theory that Swann or for that matter any other profesional cricketer isn't interested in his own or other players stats.I think that is absolute rubbish because he will know himself EXACTLY what his test match bowling average is?!. He and other cricketers may not make it obvious or publicly admit that they don't play the game for statistical excellence & track their career averages but the fact of the matter is THEY DO but if he doesn't do any of that then he shouldn't be playing the game because players ARE judged on their numbers because cricket like it or not is a stats driven sport. That's how players including Swan are selected for and keep their place(s) in their national sides!! I don't suggest for one moment that Swann is a Boycott type obsessive but I don't know who all the top international players are trying to fool when they say they don't pay attention to their own individual records but it certainly ain't me!!