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Graeme Swann remains England's first-choice spinner but the stock of his deputy James Tredwell is rising
June 11, 2013
First it was Graeme Swann's elbow, now it is his back giving English cricket some sleepless nights. His performance in the second Test against New Zealand, at Headingley, highlighted, if any such reminder was needed, how he remains way ahead in England's Test pecking order. However, the same may not apply to the one-day side.
In the dead-rubber against New Zealand at Trent Bridge Swann was rested and then at Edgbaston - which was anything but a dead-rubber - he was ruled out shortly before the team sheets were exchanged, so late in the fray that he was listed to play. On both occasions his replacement played a crucial hand in victory; the first one a consolation, the next vital at the start of England's Champions Trophy campaign.
Step forward James Tredwell; the willing tourist, the expert drinks carrier, the hardworking net bowler. But he is far more than that, and now he is getting the chance to show it. The ball to remove Martin Guptill at Trent Bridge, through the gate, was a beauty (inside a Powerplay, too, it is worth remembering) and he then had Australia's top-order tied in knots. The four overs he bowled for eight runs tightened the tourniquet applied with the new ball and went a long way to securing victory. When he returned he was more expensive but Australia were so far behind.
Guptill a poor player of spin and Australia a poor top-order? Yes to both, but Tredwell also deserves more credit than that. He does not look out of place next to many of the other spinners on show at the Champions Trophy.
Having said that, if Swann is passed fit for England's second group match against Sri Lanka he will, in all likelihood, slot straight back into the team. But there is an argument to say, at the very least, it should not be an automatic decision. What? Drop Swann? It often feels like sacrilege to even suggest the idea.
Well, just digest these numbers: since January 2012, Swann has taken 13 wickets in 14 ODIs at 42.23, while Tredwell has bagged 22 scalps in 11 matches at 19.95. As bare figures they make a compelling case for Tredwell. If someone suffered selective amnesia and was the told to pick an offspinner, you wouldn't blame them for not choosing Swann.
But let's move away from making it a contest between the two and appreciate Tredwell. He has never been picked in a squad as first choice, always a reserve, yet he has rarely let England down when called in - sometimes, like at Edgbaston, with just a moment's notice. That's the value of experience built up over years on the domestic scene. Sometimes the demand for youth is not balanced with the need of the moment. Tredwell is the perfect understudy for England right now.
Neither are many of his outings just token appearances with nothing riding on them. Before the January 2012 cut-off for the previous statistic, he produced a match-winning spell of 4 for 48 at the 2011 World Cup against West Indies in just his fourth ODI. Against South Africa last year he took five wickets in three matches and then in India he claimed 11 at 18.18 (as a comparison, R Ashwin took seven wickets at 35.71) before Swann was immediately recalled for the one-dayers in New Zealand.
It is true that Tredwell's first-class figures this year are not flattering. In fact, he hasn't taken a red-ball wicket. In 102 overs, spread over five games. Not even a No. 11 slogging to long-on. Tredwell is not the dynamic longer-form bowler that Swann is and he will not have a long and fruitful Test career.
However if, in a worst case scenario, Swann is incapacitated at some point during the next 10 Tests matches, spread over two Ashes series, there is a strengthening case for Tredwell ahead of Monty Panesar. A few overs to Australia's left-handers and it's unlikely his season's wicket tally would stay at zero.
Again, while making comparisons across different formats is not entirely fair, the calmness and control of Tredwell, when thrust into a central role as he was at Edgbaston, is in marked contrast to how Panesar reacts when he is on his own, as opposed to in tandem with Swann.
The presence of Tredwell could also help Swann extend his Test career. Naturally, Swann wants to play at the 2015 World Cup - perhaps it will the finale to his career, if he makes it - but he does not have to play the vast number of ODIs between now then. There have already been signs over the last six months that Swann will be carefully handled through one-day cricket, much as Dale Steyn is for South Africa; a different style of player, obviously, but an equally valuable commodity to his team.
And the more Tredwell performs in his England shirt the more it is clear they have a perfectly able deputy.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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