England news August 16, 2011

Swann content with team success

At the start of the tour, Graeme Swann was riding high at No. 2 in the world rankings. Three Tests later, he has been limited to four wickets at 80.25 but his usual contributions have not been missed in the slightest

Sportsmen are often renowned for claiming that they would trade in personal success for collective team glory, and they invariably sound disingenuous while doing so. But in the case of Graeme Swann, that is more or less what has happened in the course of this series against India. At the start of the tour, Swann was riding high at No. 2 in the world rankings, and looking on course to topple Dale Steyn as the world's leading bowler. Three Tests later, he has been limited to four wickets at 80.25, but with England now rated as the best team in the world, his usual contributions have not been missed in the slightest.

In fact, on a series of wickets that have aided England's potent seam attack, Swann has been more than happy to let his team-mates take the lead in the demolition of India. Stuart Broad, James Anderson and Tim Bresnan have each collected a five-wicket haul in the course of the first three Tests, and have so far shared 51 of the 60 Indian wickets to have fallen. "I'm an inherently lazy person," said Swann, "so I quite enjoy having other people to do the hard yards."

"I wouldn't say I'm firing on all cylinders, but that's just a case of not getting as many overs under my belt as I would have wanted," he added. "When your seamers are doing so well from one end and it's swinging around, it doesn't take a genius to know who you're going to attack when the little fingerspinner comes on. I wouldn't say it's frustrating, but it would be nice to play a little bit more of a role in a couple of the games.

"I've bowled well in patches in this series," said Swann. "I was quite happy with how I bowled at Edgbaston, but I was disgusted with how I bowled at Trent Bridge - I might start asking for annual leave whenever we play there. Lord's and Trent Bridge were as unfriendly to spinners as any wickets I've played on, so I was more than happy that the other guys were taking the wickets, otherwise it might have glared up how badly I bowled at Trent Bridge had we not won that game."

Leaving aside Swann's habitual flippancy, this current England team displays none of the angst that coloured their insecure squads in the dark days of the 1990s, when one bad game could often cause your eviction from the set-up. Nor does it seem to foster the petty jealousies that, for example, compelled Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick to outperform one another during the team's upsurge under Nasser Hussain in the early 2000s. With a tally of 19 wins in their last 30 Tests, and 11 of those by an innings, the collective thrill of victory is enough to satisfy everyone.

"I think it's been proved over the last couple of years that everyone is genuinely happy for everyone else's success," said Swann. "It's not a cliquey, bitchy environment where if people don't do well there are certain corners giggling and happy with it. That's been a case in the past in sports teams I've played in, but it's not in this one and anyone who was unfortunate enough to be in the way of our celebrations on Saturday night would have seen we're a very happy bunch and enjoy each other's company and each other's successes."

The celebrations at Edgbaston included, at various moments, Swann dancing to the Human League while wearing a Star Wars Stormtrooper's helmet, while Bresnan tweeted a picture of himself wearing a Borat mask. While the euphoria was not on a par with the scenes that accompanied England's retention of the Ashes in Melbourne back in December, Swann insisted that this sort of work-hard, play-hard culture was essential for a contented team environment.

"That was nothing to do with us becoming No. 1," he said. "That was the heady three or four hours after winning a Test match. We always celebrate wins of magnitude, and I think that's what you should do as a team, because it's very good for team bonding. But we're not carrying on thinking the series is over. I don't think any of us wants to be in a room with Andy Flower if we do take our foot off the gas. I know I don't."

"It was a similar situation after that Melbourne Test," Swann added. "A lot of people said the hard work was done and people wouldn't blame us for taking our foot off the gas at Sydney, but we actually pulled out our best performance of the trip [victory by an innings and 83 runs]. We'll be looking to emulate that at The Oval, because if we even go halfway to matching that game at Sydney, we'll be doing well."

From a personal point of view, Swann has little doubt that he'll be back in the thick of things before long, not least when England set about defending their No. 1 status against Pakistan and Sri Lanka in the new year. "I always look at the winter and think there's a lot more bowling for me to be done during those months," he said. "When we get to Abu Dhabi and Dubai [against Pakistan], having played on those wickets, I'm not sure our seamers will be lining up to bowl as they are at the minute.

"It's a nice place to be, No. 1 in the world, but it's not been the talk of the changing room," he added. "Abu Dhabi and Dubai and then Sri Lanka will be two huge series for us because they're not the kind of places where people go and steamroller teams and win handsomely. Then we have India the winter after as well, so that could be a real litmus test of where we are as a team, if we can carry on our performances of the past two years in those very hostile conditions."

Nevertheless, the distance that England have already travelled since 2009, when Flower and Andrew Strauss came together as captain and coach, is astonishing. Swann recalled the team meeting when the notion of England becoming the best Test side in the world was first aired, and admitted it had, at the time, seemed a long, long way off.

"It looked incredibly implausible," he said. "The run of form we had to have and the results we had to have and things go our way, I don't think anyone - even the most incredible sensationalist - would have believed what we were writing on the board. But it has panned out that way. So I'm a bit nervous about what [Flower] might come up with next time."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • rahul on August 18, 2011, 8:58 GMT

    swann is not best spinner at the moment . srilanka has much better spinners than him . he takes wickets only against sides which are not capable of playing spin. he can't take wickets against india . even in indian tracks he is thrashed .

  • PATRICK on August 18, 2011, 8:07 GMT

    @Trickstar I agree with you whole-heartedly. sachingilly's comment lacks any thought. Swann has a phenomenal record for his short career. 19 times 4 wickets or more out of 64 innings in Tests - I think any team would want him playing for them. And of course, he's no deer in the headlights with the bat either.

  • paul on August 17, 2011, 21:16 GMT

    @sachingilly EH? why can't he play cricket past 34, seems a pretty stupid thing to say, considering he's never had any injuries in his career and only been playing international cricket for 3 years or so. He is with out argument the best spinner around in all formats, his career obviously started too late for him to ever be considered a great of the game and no one has ever suggested he is and if you went to ask him personally about it he would laugh in your face, at the suggestion of being as good as the other great spin bowlers. He does a brilliant job for England and they couldn't have got to the top without him, when it's not spinning on the first day of a test, he nearly always ties down a end for the Captain to rotate his quicks, as well as when it's spinning, he can tear through sides, he's also taken more wickets in the last few years in all formats than any other bowler.

  • Rob on August 17, 2011, 20:26 GMT

    Dear sachingilly, what age is Murali? When did he retire from Test Cricket? Age 30 has nothing to do with "World Class"

    As to other posts! Swann acknowledges here that he's gone for a few runs but please this isn't about his performance but the team?

    He's still taken more wickets than Harbiwhatshisname?? So stick to stats if youre going to be critical and stop worrying about the subcontinent, your turn will come when Eng visit this winter and the next and Eng also have to contend with SA next summer, so lots of challenges and opportunities for No.1 spot to change and hopefully some great test cricket especially from Eng!

    Who knows even Monty might get a bowl in SL, Dubai or India??

    4-0 likely outcome unless weather plays its hand

  • Ryo on August 17, 2011, 18:07 GMT

    @indianzen: living in your own world as usual.

  • RK on August 17, 2011, 15:02 GMT

    "....."We will stick to our game plan and hopefully it'll reflect in our performance. This is a sport, we go through tough times. It's challenges that make life interesting." MS Dhoni remains typically philosophical ahead of the final match of what has been a very challenging tour for India......" `wonder if he (MSD) has any plan at all! Replace Raina with Mukund. Raina isn't just a test material. He can only score in shorter version on flat pitches.

  • Sriram on August 17, 2011, 12:24 GMT

    A player who has had more talk than walk MUST have supported it with performance. One good thing that happened for India in this series is Swann didnt get any respect from the Indian batsmen.He was mauled by Praveen Kumar in the third test second innings. India have conceded ; yeah. But let Mr ALL TALK AND NO WALK SWANN, please see his records in England prior to the Indians' arrival. He has been dealt with relative comfort. Full credit to the English team but the way Swann talked was a bit too much more than his potential.

  • Martin on August 17, 2011, 11:21 GMT

    I think part of the problem - if I might say so - is that some people come on here and paint targets on their foreheads. When that happens it's inevitable that poeple are going to start shooting.... So, in short, my advice would be - don't come on here and paint a target on your forehead. If you do - then you will just have to take your chances!

  • David on August 17, 2011, 11:03 GMT

    sachingilly, you can write it as many times as you like. you're still wrong. if somebody is currently the best spin bowler in the world, then they're by definition world class. what you're talking about is "all time great", which he isn't. but he's better than any spinner playing for any country right now. that'll do. i have absolutely no idea what his age has to do with the statement you're making.

  • Jason on August 17, 2011, 11:03 GMT

    @indianzen, where does Swann say anything about he IPL, hes talking about the England team and why they are such a close knit unit.

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