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March 5, 2013
Graeme Swann, the England offspinner, has admitted he fears that the state of his right elbow could threaten his involvement in the back-to-back Ashes series taking place later this year.
Swann underwent surgery to remove fragments of bone from around his right elbow in 2009. The surgeon was unable to remove all the fragments, however, as some were deemed to be too close to the nerve. Despite several weeks of rest ahead of the New Zealand tour, the injury flared up during England's warm-up game in Queenstown leaving Swann worried about how he will manage throughout a busy year that contains home and away series against Australia and the Champions Trophy.
"We are embarking on arguably England's greatest year of Test cricket ever and I can't wait for the back-to-back Ashes series," Swann wrote in his Sun column. "But I have one big worry - the state of my right elbow. It caused me discomfort again during our only warm-up match before the first Test and I had to leave the field.
"I'll be honest, the elbow is always a concern. It's been hanging over me for several years and, despite having an operation in 2009, the problem hasn't entirely gone away.
"It would be a massive pain in the backside if my wonky elbow forced me to miss any of the Tests against Australia. I'm absolutely determined to be available for what might be my final two Ashes series - and that means managing the elbow as well as possible.
"I was rested from the one-day series in India and that meant I had around seven weeks at home, which was brilliant. It gave the elbow a nice break. But it stiffened up during our three-wicket defeat to a New Zealand XI in Queenstown and I went off for some treatment. Had it been a Test match, I would have carried on bowling and suffered the consequences the next day. Clearly, needing treatment in my first match after a long break was not great. But I was able to come back on to the field and bowl again."
England's bowling attack has required an increased level of management in recent times, with Stuart Broad's heel problem another long-term concern. Swann's admission may increase the likelihood of rotation being extended to the spinners, although in Monty Panesar there is an experienced and talented Test option at England's disposal.
"When I had my op, the surgeon removed 29 fragments of bone but had to leave a couple around the elbow because of their proximity to the nerve. It means the joint tends to stiffen up and it certainly hurts whenever I bang it," Swann wrote.
"I really don't want to have another operation. For two weeks after my op, I was in bed with a machine keeping my arm in continual motion for 23 hours a day. It was a testing time - and poor old Tim Bresnan has been going through the same thing after his operation in America. This year of all years, I don't want the elbow to cause any problems. I want to be fit for as much Test cricket as possible and, fingers crossed, I will be."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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Alastair Cook has got used to feeling of the axe hanging over him. Only his team-mates can save England now
They have to see a glass that is half-full, and play the game as if it is just that, a game; and an opportunity