South Africa in England 2012 July 30, 2012

Surgery 'worst fear' for Swann


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."

Investec, the specialist bank and asset manager, is the title sponsor of Test match cricket in England. Visit the Investec Cricket Zone at for player analysis, stats, Test match info and games.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • wrenx 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?

  • 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.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • dummy4fb 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

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