December 27, 2013

Swann and the fear of success

It takes an extraordinary athlete with an exceptional mind to not fear the pressures that achievements bring, and to soldier on regardless
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Another one bites the dust. Graeme Swann flies away into the sunset, calling a sudden close to a fine spell as England's premier spin bowler. Whatever way you look at it, supportively or otherwise, it's bloody odd. The timing, that is.

Frankly, to anyone who loves the game, the chance to play in Melbourne in a Boxing Day Test, then to go on to the SCG, is simply something you don't turn down. You are lucky if you get it once, so when a second opportunity comes along, you grab it with both mitts, for second time round you should be better equipped to play better, the familiarity becoming a friend. Let me repeat, when you are privileged to represent your country at two of the greatest grounds in the world, in the most famous series of all, it's a classic no-brainer. Yet for Swann it was a flight and fight too far.

I have spent days trying to work out the rationale for the timing of such a decision. A decision, by definition, is the making up of one's mind. In Swann's case it would appear to be a mind suddenly fuelled with confusion and negative distortion after only three Tests on the wrong side. From where does this apparent about-turn come from, may one ask?

This is a man who carved out a beautiful reputation, a man with humour and humility, a bowler with courage and skill. He didn't rely on bent rules, or false illusions. He bowled with a genuine conviction, a feel for the art, and a calmness that carried him through thick and thin.

And then it stops being so. Just like that. Within a blink of an eye he sits at home watching, as we all are, admiring a packed house in the greatest atmosphere on the planet; at the 'G, in front of 91,012 cricket lovers, a new world record by the way. Who wouldn't want to be out there in the middle?

So we have a reputation and a decision, but what lies in between? Surely not the carry-on by others with heads up bottoms? Come on, every team has a few. It's part of the act of cricket to see a few gooses conjure up behaviour that throws itself under the skin of the rest. It's another small dose of life, is it not? No Graeme, there is no rhyme nor reason for this.

Unless the fear of success, or perhaps more appropriately the pressure of success, has spoken. Many fear failure, of humiliation, rejection and of unworthiness. However, once you steam past that and move into the stratosphere of triumph and glory, individual and team success, you enter another world; the expectant world.

Basic failing is actually a very acceptable human trait. What isn't is the lack of courage to get up and try again. Then after a few attempts, a certain amount of learning should kick in and the performance - whatever it is that you are doing - should improve, and the journey goes on.

The butt kicker sometimes is that in life's decision-making eyes, whatever you are doing might not be good enough at a given point, and therefore we are stood down for someone else.

For those, like Swann, who fork out an honest and, at times, exquisite period of very-goodness, we simply reach a point of breaking strain. And that is okay too. We are all made differently

In other words, you are picked to bat at No. 5, you average only 25 in five games, but there are signs of something, so another five Tests are given, you average 35, but alas it ain't enough overall - ten Tests at 30 is deemed average, so you are discarded. Did you fail? Actually, no. It was tough at the start, which it mostly is, and then you improved once exposed to what was required. Then the determining factor of whether it was a good investment overall comes in, and you are replaced, according to an apparent expert, for a potentially better player. Tough gig.

However, if you get through that initial induction and get another ten Tests and continue that improvement then the criteria for success start to emerge: 20 Tests averaging 40 and a career is truly underway. Before long that gets up to 45. Throw in the team's winning ways and life is sweet. You and your team go on a golden run, and expectations soar. As they do, the fear of failure is left far behind and in its place comes the first inkling of a new fear, another kind of pressure - that of success; of having to meet a new expectation, a new realm. Having to get up day in and day out and perform to a high level begins to slowly eat away at your nerve. How long can you keep this going?

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the $64,000 question. The very question that faced Swann when the Ashes were mercifully and brutally extracted from England's once-firm grip. In the aftermath of the urn being handed over in Perth, and the mauling that Shane Watson dished out to Swann, and George Bailey to James Anderson, came the searching, gnarly, nagging question into the mind of Swann himself: "Oh my god, what's next?"

We have heard the rationale from him about nothing left to give, allowing another to feel the privilege. We respect it, it's his decision and his fine career prompts us all to listen and respect. But do we believe?

I believe that the fear of success took its toll. It's the eroded belief, the exhausted energy, that called Swann out and said: "I am sick of having to succeed. Let someone else do it! Let someone else chase the figures that I was expected to produce as the lone spinner. I am done." This I believe.

It takes an extraordinary athlete with an exceptional mind to keep producing great feats. Geniuses like Tendulkar, Warne, McGrath, Dravid, Ponting and Kallis, to name a bunch, all showed an amazing appetite and a groundedness to resist the pressures of success and go into the twilight, and even long into the night.

It's a hard one. And some folk, like those six mentioned, have the innate immunity to rise above any fear and to feel the love instead. That's why they are the chosen ones. For the rest, like Swann, who fork out an honest and, at times, exquisite period of very-goodness, we simply reach a point of breaking strain, a need to go home and rest a weary and sore head. And that is okay too. We are all made differently.

The mind-and-body connection gets you in the end. In the cases of those like Swann, who have decided to go unexpectedly in the middle of an intensely fervid battle, well, it does make you ask why. Maybe it just comes down to a basic preference, when you knew the nerve needs another stimulant. Kallis, as we have seen, has broken through many pressure levels and finally, after nearly two decades, feels the bird is cooked. Swann had his fill and will move on to other modes of preference and taste. He will do well.

And so one can sense where Swann is at. In fact, we all know where he is at - he is on his comfortable couch in the middle of the night, watching one of the greatest Tests you could play in, possibly contemplating that jingle-bell question: "Could I have done two more Tests and lowered my fear of success to one of basic participation? Could I have just got through ten more days and had time off to consider this all?"

Christmas food for thought.

Martin Crowe, one of the leading batsmen of the late '80s, played 77 Tests for New Zealand

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • AllanGavaskar on December 29, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Crowe, Botham et al, played at a time when over-packed scheduling, media scrutiny, overanalysis and over thinking weren't really occurring to the dizzying level they do today for something that is in the final analysis, despite our passion and veneration, just a game. The amount of cricket professionals play today often results in injury, burnout, exhaustion, painkillers and injections to play while injured, and ultimately and understandably, jaded disillusionment. As such they might not fully understand that despite the tremendous honour of playing for your country does not compensate for possibly destroying your shoulder, or whatever was bugging Swann. Besides, the apparently "sinking ship" that is English Test Cricket was actually scuttled long ago by poor succession planning and an addiction to short term success, by the English Cricket Establishment. Vale Swann, your indubitable skill and humour will be missed.

  • Phat-Boy on December 29, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    And there you have it, @Nathan_R_Patrick. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to bash Kevin Pietersen in a story about an off-spinner who has little or no relevance to him.

    Not watched this test? Not watched Pietersen reign in - for the most part - every instinct in his game to try and take the fight to Australia? Not watched him sit at the non-strikers end while just about every team-mate meekly surrendered their wicket?

    Failure to deliver? You say that like it is his career hall-mark. His career hall-mark is precisely the fact that he DOES deliver - write down the dozen best and most important English innings' of the last 20 years and Pietersen will fill at least half the spots. Make no mistake, he cares - but the fact that he's such an easy figure to criticise means that he just gets thrown under a bus whenever he fails.

  • TengaZool on December 29, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    Good enough attempt at deciphering the Swann retirement. Speculation is all we've got till Mr. Swann comes out with a book. I am sure he will have a lot to say about us colourful Aussie characters. But Martin Crowe - seriously mate, was bringing in the "bent rules/arm" jab really necessary.

  • on December 29, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    Wonderful piece Martin. I wonder why Swann came on the tour at all? Some in this post have suggested a painful elbow. I suspect it did not happen overnight. Surely a spinner knows when his fingers and wrists and shoulders cannot do it any more. It was perhaps arrogance that batsmen would crumble even against a half-fit Swann? In this case it does appear to be a fear of total failure - what a way to sign off a career.

  • Nathan_R_Patrick on December 28, 2013, 21:17 GMT

    Martin, it is a traditional british mindset. They hate to see themselves lose but quite a few of them expect things on silver platter. They get mentally disintegrated when they get hammered. Cook by far is the strongest in terms of mindset. KP doesn't seem to care much. One can't call his indifference as toughness. His brash behavior will continue in spite of his over-hyped image and failure to deliver. Brits in general are not used to dealing with harshest conditions traditionally. It reflects clearly in the cricket team's mindset. Oh, and their dry humor with sarcasm kills each other within the team. They themselves mentally disintegrate their own team-mates. Opposition have to do it only once (like MJ played mind game with Trott before the first test). Besides, I don't think they are competitive enough. They perform in pockets but can't be consistent. No one looks hungry to perform.

  • on December 28, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    He was bowling through pain, we have lost. There is a purpose in carrying on through the pain when chasing victory but little point with the series gone. Swann has explained this and it makes perfect sense. Why the genius behind Cricket Max does not accept this I have no idea, perhaps his supreme mind knows better than Swann himself

  • irishhawks on December 28, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    Martin u have not taken into fact that His Elbow was giving up on him,,And if he knew he couldn't give his 100 percent, couldn't bowl long spells..He was spot on with his retirement,,but what shocked everyone was timing..yes..in the middle of horrible series..I think Captain cook has failed to hold his players together in this storm..May be Swann was tired of all finger pointing because of failure of senior players to perform their role effectively..He was hurt mentally..failure to take wickets and he was hurt more with losing all 3 in row cause then there is no chance of comeback... It was up to captain cook to hold his players together but he himself is struggling..and everyone else seems to be sulking in different corners of their rooms...Team has disintegrated..Players like Swann need shoulder to cry on...They couldnt find any..

  • ThirteenthMan on December 28, 2013, 9:50 GMT

    England need wickets in the 4th innings. The spinner took 5 in the third.

  • foozball on December 28, 2013, 8:30 GMT

    I find it odd the author would write this piece without any reference to any physical impediments Swann may have been experiencing. Ashley Mallett's article a couple of weeks ago would have been a perfect cited source, thereby providing a more complete picture than what we're given here.

    Bit of a shame, really. Nicely written piece, but you pointedly ignore the elephant in the room, which isn't much of an elephant seeing as it was called out on this site very recently.

  • ImonG on December 28, 2013, 8:22 GMT

    Mr Crowe, although I loved your article, because of the way it is written, I would beg to disagree on the point that its the fear of success. I think he simply chickened out. Ran away from the fight. Its easy to enter a fight when you are winning, you will find deserters when the chips are down. One can remain politically correct & try to attribute this behavior to any psychological issue, the fact remains he deserted the team middle of the series. A fighter would have completed the series, not matter how battered or bruised, would have played for glory Some blame should also must go to the English press. In my opinion they over glorify their sports man, not only in cricket but in all sports. So when they fail miserably, as in this Ashes, the back lash is also understandably scathing. And people used to over glorification break down. Thinking they have lost all their abilities, and are no good any more. That's exactly what happened with Jonathan Trott, that's what is happening here.

  • AllanGavaskar on December 29, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    Crowe, Botham et al, played at a time when over-packed scheduling, media scrutiny, overanalysis and over thinking weren't really occurring to the dizzying level they do today for something that is in the final analysis, despite our passion and veneration, just a game. The amount of cricket professionals play today often results in injury, burnout, exhaustion, painkillers and injections to play while injured, and ultimately and understandably, jaded disillusionment. As such they might not fully understand that despite the tremendous honour of playing for your country does not compensate for possibly destroying your shoulder, or whatever was bugging Swann. Besides, the apparently "sinking ship" that is English Test Cricket was actually scuttled long ago by poor succession planning and an addiction to short term success, by the English Cricket Establishment. Vale Swann, your indubitable skill and humour will be missed.

  • Phat-Boy on December 29, 2013, 6:02 GMT

    And there you have it, @Nathan_R_Patrick. I was wondering how long it would take for someone to bash Kevin Pietersen in a story about an off-spinner who has little or no relevance to him.

    Not watched this test? Not watched Pietersen reign in - for the most part - every instinct in his game to try and take the fight to Australia? Not watched him sit at the non-strikers end while just about every team-mate meekly surrendered their wicket?

    Failure to deliver? You say that like it is his career hall-mark. His career hall-mark is precisely the fact that he DOES deliver - write down the dozen best and most important English innings' of the last 20 years and Pietersen will fill at least half the spots. Make no mistake, he cares - but the fact that he's such an easy figure to criticise means that he just gets thrown under a bus whenever he fails.

  • TengaZool on December 29, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    Good enough attempt at deciphering the Swann retirement. Speculation is all we've got till Mr. Swann comes out with a book. I am sure he will have a lot to say about us colourful Aussie characters. But Martin Crowe - seriously mate, was bringing in the "bent rules/arm" jab really necessary.

  • on December 29, 2013, 4:00 GMT

    Wonderful piece Martin. I wonder why Swann came on the tour at all? Some in this post have suggested a painful elbow. I suspect it did not happen overnight. Surely a spinner knows when his fingers and wrists and shoulders cannot do it any more. It was perhaps arrogance that batsmen would crumble even against a half-fit Swann? In this case it does appear to be a fear of total failure - what a way to sign off a career.

  • Nathan_R_Patrick on December 28, 2013, 21:17 GMT

    Martin, it is a traditional british mindset. They hate to see themselves lose but quite a few of them expect things on silver platter. They get mentally disintegrated when they get hammered. Cook by far is the strongest in terms of mindset. KP doesn't seem to care much. One can't call his indifference as toughness. His brash behavior will continue in spite of his over-hyped image and failure to deliver. Brits in general are not used to dealing with harshest conditions traditionally. It reflects clearly in the cricket team's mindset. Oh, and their dry humor with sarcasm kills each other within the team. They themselves mentally disintegrate their own team-mates. Opposition have to do it only once (like MJ played mind game with Trott before the first test). Besides, I don't think they are competitive enough. They perform in pockets but can't be consistent. No one looks hungry to perform.

  • on December 28, 2013, 13:07 GMT

    He was bowling through pain, we have lost. There is a purpose in carrying on through the pain when chasing victory but little point with the series gone. Swann has explained this and it makes perfect sense. Why the genius behind Cricket Max does not accept this I have no idea, perhaps his supreme mind knows better than Swann himself

  • irishhawks on December 28, 2013, 10:14 GMT

    Martin u have not taken into fact that His Elbow was giving up on him,,And if he knew he couldn't give his 100 percent, couldn't bowl long spells..He was spot on with his retirement,,but what shocked everyone was timing..yes..in the middle of horrible series..I think Captain cook has failed to hold his players together in this storm..May be Swann was tired of all finger pointing because of failure of senior players to perform their role effectively..He was hurt mentally..failure to take wickets and he was hurt more with losing all 3 in row cause then there is no chance of comeback... It was up to captain cook to hold his players together but he himself is struggling..and everyone else seems to be sulking in different corners of their rooms...Team has disintegrated..Players like Swann need shoulder to cry on...They couldnt find any..

  • ThirteenthMan on December 28, 2013, 9:50 GMT

    England need wickets in the 4th innings. The spinner took 5 in the third.

  • foozball on December 28, 2013, 8:30 GMT

    I find it odd the author would write this piece without any reference to any physical impediments Swann may have been experiencing. Ashley Mallett's article a couple of weeks ago would have been a perfect cited source, thereby providing a more complete picture than what we're given here.

    Bit of a shame, really. Nicely written piece, but you pointedly ignore the elephant in the room, which isn't much of an elephant seeing as it was called out on this site very recently.

  • ImonG on December 28, 2013, 8:22 GMT

    Mr Crowe, although I loved your article, because of the way it is written, I would beg to disagree on the point that its the fear of success. I think he simply chickened out. Ran away from the fight. Its easy to enter a fight when you are winning, you will find deserters when the chips are down. One can remain politically correct & try to attribute this behavior to any psychological issue, the fact remains he deserted the team middle of the series. A fighter would have completed the series, not matter how battered or bruised, would have played for glory Some blame should also must go to the English press. In my opinion they over glorify their sports man, not only in cricket but in all sports. So when they fail miserably, as in this Ashes, the back lash is also understandably scathing. And people used to over glorification break down. Thinking they have lost all their abilities, and are no good any more. That's exactly what happened with Jonathan Trott, that's what is happening here.

  • Harmony111 on December 28, 2013, 2:23 GMT

    Even a weak link provides more strength than no link. Withdrawing yourself when you are in the mid of shearing is cowardice. Hoping that Monty or someone else will fill in the gap is wishful & transfer of responsibility. One is not brave in parts, you are either brave in full or doubly a coward.

    Injuries, old age, loss of form, grief etc have not come only to Swann. Everyone has been through them. But fighters fight & not evaporate. I think he opted to save whatever little he had left. Say you are in the midst of a battle & you get bruised or you are an old soldier & war is upon you or you are a soldier supposed to fight but you see it as being lost. What do you do? Do you still keep at it & try to turn it around till your last breath or do you give up & say I am too old or too injured?

    So much has been made of the commitment of the imports that play for Eng. This is a stark contrast to that.

  • EverybodylovesSachin on December 28, 2013, 0:00 GMT

    All I can say is Swann made a bad decision

  • EverybodylovesSachin on December 27, 2013, 23:59 GMT

    Please do not retire in the middle of the series no matter how bad it is for you..

  • 2.14istherunrate on December 27, 2013, 22:16 GMT

    Swann's career was great. It could have been greater just by extension. I half believe that his body was unable to go the whole distance. He did of course return too soon in the summer but of course he did it for the team. And has he explored all of the avenues to getting his arm back, every alternative? It is sad that he has given it away and this article sort of highlights how sad, this glimpse into the psychology of superstardom. I wonder if he will regret his decision as hasty,leaving the sport he loves and his friends and all the banter.His mind works fast, faster than most. His midseries departure suggests his impatience for a new life, a departure from the familiar. I can see that at some point the mind just gives in at the enormity of maintaining performance levels. He wants to see if he can do it in another direction maybe. Life goes on, but will it be quite the same now we have seen it is possible to bowl decent offspin?

  • on December 27, 2013, 20:37 GMT

    I'm an England fan, but I disagree with those who call Swann a 'great' player. He was nothing of the sort. He was a very good payer, on his day an excellent player, but not great.

    Whatever the reasons for his sudden retirement (and I doubt very much that he was told he was going to be dropped) perhaps the best clue was given by Jimmy Anderson, when he was asked at the post-day interview whether he and the team were missing Swann. "Oh, I'd forgotten about that" he said with a slightly embarrassed grin. "we've just been concentrating on the game."

    As I said, not a great player, a great player is missed big time.

  • EnglishWanderer on December 27, 2013, 18:52 GMT

    A truly great player, a real spin bowler with no mystery ball or action to be scrutinised. We have short memories, just over a year ago he was the the leading wicket taker when England beat India in a test series in India, surely one of the best results of modern times. We should be congratulating him on a great career and perhaps pondering on what might of been had someone in the England set-up had the foresight to select him at an earlier age.

  • Joll on December 27, 2013, 18:23 GMT

    I think this article about Swann's sudden retirement is over-analysed. I suspect what happened is Swann's was told after the WACA test he would not play again in the series so, realising this, the Ashes were lost, he has been injured, and his age, he decided to retire. Remember, if he had been dropped he would not have played at Melbourne or Sydney, irrespective of his retirement. So, as there would be no more test cricket for Swann on this tour, he decided to retire and go home. Perfectly understandable, whether one agrees with it or not.

  • landl47 on December 27, 2013, 16:24 GMT

    I suspect the real reason Swann chose this moment to quit isn't known to anyone except Swann and his immediate family and friends (and possibly his doctor, though I don't know that). Swann has shown over the years a great willingness to toil in unfavorable conditions- what spinner in England hasn't? He's won games and lost games and been hurt and he's played through it all. I don't believe he's suddenly become afraid of anything.

    Making assumptions as to why he chose now to go is to engage in wild speculation. His career deserves better than that.

  • czar2008 on December 27, 2013, 14:36 GMT

    Man, you must seriously consider writing a book again! - your article is super inspiring even though it is a reflection on swann's retirement and its timing etc. you don't miss a chance of penning your own thoughts on other greats and learn/teach from their examples. Life reflects cricket and vice versa and you see one can give up when they no longer feel the love, or like the super 6 u mentioned - they can continue till their hearts desire, till their nerves and muscles and sinew (as kipling put it) all break and re repair and break again and again :)). Well said and well put. Respect Swann for his decision to respect his heart's wishes and respect to you too for trying to reflect and contrast it with 'the others!'

  • xtrafalgarx on December 27, 2013, 13:21 GMT

    Yes, the pressure of success is something that comes through after reading a few of the biographies of the great Australian players of the past decade. Having to live up to a record, to past glories, to keep winning ashes series, it's not as easy as it seems. That's what separates the greats from the very goods, guys like Tendulkar and Ponting who kept going and were able to put all that aside.

  • on December 27, 2013, 13:11 GMT

    Liz1558 made very valid and well written points.

    I believe observers really are laying the criticism on unfairly thick when they say Swann left his team mates to die in a fierce battle blah blah.

    Swann in his own words said tbe ashes were lost, tbe competition in his eyes had ended. Continuing through agonising pain which he had been playing with for a while already was unnecessary.

    Monty Panesar was waiting to take over, His felt his time was over, nothing more nothing

  • elsmallo on December 27, 2013, 13:09 GMT

    I think there can be no doubt that Swann lost some of his appetite for the fight, and it's a shame for the man and English cricket. He was a liked and respected player, not to mention vital performer. I wonder whether any of the great players you mention; Tendulkar, Warne, McGrath, Dravid, Ponting and Kallis, might have come to regret not leaving the game sooner though; certainly Ponting and Tendulkar went on several series too long before their decline became apparent; Kallis has evidently just decided enough; Dravid dipped quite suddenly in his last series. Most of these players are batters; it's harder for bowlers to disguise their lowering effectiveness. 'Bad form' is a less common excuse for them. Injury is the other thing; it takes a rare (or highly managed) constitution to keep these guys truly competitive into their late 30s playing with men 15 years younger. By his and other accounts Swann was fighting this as well.

  • on December 27, 2013, 13:06 GMT

    And so to summarize the whole lengthy article in one word. Pressure led to retirement, correct?

  • vatsap on December 27, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    Individual expression is all great, but cricket remains a team game and from a distant it seems Swann seemed more bothered about his success. Wasn't adverse to make public comments about his mates, Monty and Pietersen while couldn't take a barb back. How can one leave the team in the middle of a bashing, when as a Sr player he is expected to support the leadership and the youngsters. Shows how mentally strong he was as a player.

  • on December 27, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    Martin Crowe seems to be blissfully unaware that the most likely reason that Swanny retired as he did was because he was told he would be dropped for the final two tests. Deciding that he was no longer good enough (or completely disillusioned that he was being dropped) he chose to go straight away.

    We can all talk about the why he retired as he did but only the man himself knows what he was thinking at the time. I don't feel that he was 'deserting a sinking ship' as others appear to suggest. Yes the timing was a bit strange but no-one can stop him from retiring if his mind is set on it

  • 200ondebut on December 27, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    I have always viewed playing for your country to be a privilege - and certainly not a job as players often refer to it. As such it is something you keep doing until others decide there may be someone better suited to wear your country's badge. This is true of all sports. I dont understand why Swann would not want to play for his country.

    For those who call it a job - surely you owe your employer the decency of a notice period. So they can plan for your replacement and are not left embarrassed. Swann has not doen this.

    Worse though is that Swann has let his team mates and his fans down at the worst possible time. In middle of a desperately difficult tour he has just provided further fuel to an already blood hungry media - exposing his team mates to questioning and his fans to cheap jibes.

    He was a great player but should have left the game with a bit more dignity. This has tarnished his carear.

  • liz1558 on December 27, 2013, 11:27 GMT

    So a nice way of saying that Swanny was not a great player? Fair enough, but if Warne Murali and Underwood are the great slow bowlers of the last 50 years, then Swann can easily keep the company of Kumble, Bhaji, Prasana. Bedi, Chandra, Gibbs, McGill, Qadir - the next tier down.

    Also feels like an accusation of dereliction of duty; which is what most critics are sore about - abandoning the team in its moment of destruction. In old money, cowardice. It would be deeply unfair to make this criticism of Swann, even if there is an element of truth in it. After all, you can't bear a grudge against a bloke who has fronted up in 60 battles and only lost courage in one.

  • on December 27, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    Dear all - Just experiencing that warm glow, not from Xmas sherry, but because someone respectable actually sees what I see (per Cricinfo comments throughout the series; well, they're there, honest). That's England's trip down the pan, the collective fear of the responsibility that comes with success. I feel England suffer it worse than other nations, but that could be just because I'm English and a fan, so share all those suffering emotions. Key to getting better is in M Crowe's observation "It takes an extraordinary athlete with an exceptional mind to keep producing great feats. Geniuses like Tendulkar, Warne, McGrath, Dravid, Ponting and Kallis, to name a bunch, all showed an amazing appetite and a groundedness to resist the pressures of success". But teams have done it too: West Indies in '80s, Australia '90s-'00s. This England was world number 1 briefly! Can future England leaderships and team members find and hold on to what it individually/collectively takes to love success?

  • on December 27, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    nice piece worthy of reflection.One could not help but suspect that his damaged shoulder which neccasitated an operation after the successful tour of india in early 2013 might have played a part in this decision of his.Given he is 34 , he may have well have had a niggle and combined with the niggardly returns lately might have forced him to take this decision.To reckon it as selfish as some quarters have done, leaving a sinking ship and so on and so forth is a bit unfair for he may well have walked out of a lucrative central ECB contract .. memories of his classical action, loopy flight ,mustered ina half sleeved shirt ,the drft, the turn, his dismissal of Virat kohli in a test match in India are all enduring, abiding memories of a lovely off spinner.He was not a bad slip fielder either nor was he a bad batsman in the lower mid order capable ofa good old beefy thwack.

  • vinjoy on December 27, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    The most insightful article on cricinfo in recent times, on what cricketers go through. As youngsters, we often want to be in domestic teams, and then at the pitch in Auckland, Antigua or Mumbai. Not many realize the kind of mental conditioning is needs to accept the challenge and aura of playing international cricket, the pressure of performing, the skill of course to deal with failures and the unit not doing well enough.

    MC had nailed it down so very beautifully. I wonder how ICC and respective boards spend $$$$ on new stands, flood lights, electronic scorecards... without realizing a need to provide mental conditional opportunities to cricketers where they meet 1-2 times a year (by their choice), hang around, camp around, talk about life, perspectives, emotions and the sport, what it means to play against and together. IPL and Big Bash are making machines out of players and will create more Swanns, Trotts and Trescothics in next few years.

  • Worldcricketlover on December 27, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    Swan is best offspiner in the world. As rightly said by crow that he has not taken advantage of bent rules . There are few who play by wearing full sleeve clothes and agreed that he get maximum turn by bending more then 15 degree. Sad part they are still playing . Swan is greatest.

  • on December 27, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    It happens only in England...Leaving the team half way when the team is in trouble...

  • VVBHAT on December 27, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    Very good article... and a very good concept.. The fear of Success...

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  • VVBHAT on December 27, 2013, 10:27 GMT

    Very good article... and a very good concept.. The fear of Success...

  • on December 27, 2013, 10:28 GMT

    It happens only in England...Leaving the team half way when the team is in trouble...

  • Worldcricketlover on December 27, 2013, 10:42 GMT

    Swan is best offspiner in the world. As rightly said by crow that he has not taken advantage of bent rules . There are few who play by wearing full sleeve clothes and agreed that he get maximum turn by bending more then 15 degree. Sad part they are still playing . Swan is greatest.

  • vinjoy on December 27, 2013, 10:46 GMT

    The most insightful article on cricinfo in recent times, on what cricketers go through. As youngsters, we often want to be in domestic teams, and then at the pitch in Auckland, Antigua or Mumbai. Not many realize the kind of mental conditioning is needs to accept the challenge and aura of playing international cricket, the pressure of performing, the skill of course to deal with failures and the unit not doing well enough.

    MC had nailed it down so very beautifully. I wonder how ICC and respective boards spend $$$$ on new stands, flood lights, electronic scorecards... without realizing a need to provide mental conditional opportunities to cricketers where they meet 1-2 times a year (by their choice), hang around, camp around, talk about life, perspectives, emotions and the sport, what it means to play against and together. IPL and Big Bash are making machines out of players and will create more Swanns, Trotts and Trescothics in next few years.

  • on December 27, 2013, 10:49 GMT

    nice piece worthy of reflection.One could not help but suspect that his damaged shoulder which neccasitated an operation after the successful tour of india in early 2013 might have played a part in this decision of his.Given he is 34 , he may have well have had a niggle and combined with the niggardly returns lately might have forced him to take this decision.To reckon it as selfish as some quarters have done, leaving a sinking ship and so on and so forth is a bit unfair for he may well have walked out of a lucrative central ECB contract .. memories of his classical action, loopy flight ,mustered ina half sleeved shirt ,the drft, the turn, his dismissal of Virat kohli in a test match in India are all enduring, abiding memories of a lovely off spinner.He was not a bad slip fielder either nor was he a bad batsman in the lower mid order capable ofa good old beefy thwack.

  • on December 27, 2013, 11:04 GMT

    Dear all - Just experiencing that warm glow, not from Xmas sherry, but because someone respectable actually sees what I see (per Cricinfo comments throughout the series; well, they're there, honest). That's England's trip down the pan, the collective fear of the responsibility that comes with success. I feel England suffer it worse than other nations, but that could be just because I'm English and a fan, so share all those suffering emotions. Key to getting better is in M Crowe's observation "It takes an extraordinary athlete with an exceptional mind to keep producing great feats. Geniuses like Tendulkar, Warne, McGrath, Dravid, Ponting and Kallis, to name a bunch, all showed an amazing appetite and a groundedness to resist the pressures of success". But teams have done it too: West Indies in '80s, Australia '90s-'00s. This England was world number 1 briefly! Can future England leaderships and team members find and hold on to what it individually/collectively takes to love success?

  • liz1558 on December 27, 2013, 11:27 GMT

    So a nice way of saying that Swanny was not a great player? Fair enough, but if Warne Murali and Underwood are the great slow bowlers of the last 50 years, then Swann can easily keep the company of Kumble, Bhaji, Prasana. Bedi, Chandra, Gibbs, McGill, Qadir - the next tier down.

    Also feels like an accusation of dereliction of duty; which is what most critics are sore about - abandoning the team in its moment of destruction. In old money, cowardice. It would be deeply unfair to make this criticism of Swann, even if there is an element of truth in it. After all, you can't bear a grudge against a bloke who has fronted up in 60 battles and only lost courage in one.

  • 200ondebut on December 27, 2013, 11:30 GMT

    I have always viewed playing for your country to be a privilege - and certainly not a job as players often refer to it. As such it is something you keep doing until others decide there may be someone better suited to wear your country's badge. This is true of all sports. I dont understand why Swann would not want to play for his country.

    For those who call it a job - surely you owe your employer the decency of a notice period. So they can plan for your replacement and are not left embarrassed. Swann has not doen this.

    Worse though is that Swann has let his team mates and his fans down at the worst possible time. In middle of a desperately difficult tour he has just provided further fuel to an already blood hungry media - exposing his team mates to questioning and his fans to cheap jibes.

    He was a great player but should have left the game with a bit more dignity. This has tarnished his carear.

  • on December 27, 2013, 12:18 GMT

    Martin Crowe seems to be blissfully unaware that the most likely reason that Swanny retired as he did was because he was told he would be dropped for the final two tests. Deciding that he was no longer good enough (or completely disillusioned that he was being dropped) he chose to go straight away.

    We can all talk about the why he retired as he did but only the man himself knows what he was thinking at the time. I don't feel that he was 'deserting a sinking ship' as others appear to suggest. Yes the timing was a bit strange but no-one can stop him from retiring if his mind is set on it

  • vatsap on December 27, 2013, 12:56 GMT

    Individual expression is all great, but cricket remains a team game and from a distant it seems Swann seemed more bothered about his success. Wasn't adverse to make public comments about his mates, Monty and Pietersen while couldn't take a barb back. How can one leave the team in the middle of a bashing, when as a Sr player he is expected to support the leadership and the youngsters. Shows how mentally strong he was as a player.