Sri Lanka v England, 2nd Test, Colombo, 2nd day April 4, 2012

Swann hits out at 'witch hunt'

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Graeme Swann has hit out at what he perceives is a "witch hunt" against Andrew Strauss following England's four Test defeats this year and the captain's poor return with the bat and backed him as the best captain in the game.

Strauss was the major talking point from an England point of view heading into the Colombo Test. While the team was winning, as they have done for much of the last three years, the fact Strauss was not contributing hugely with the bat was generally overlooked. He has scored one Test hundred in 48 innings although showed the fighting qualities he has always had with his 61 on the second day in Colombo.

Swann, who took 4 for 75 to help bowl Sri Lanka out for 275, insisted Strauss had not been affected by the debate while adding the dressing room has barely given it another thought.

"He hasn't shown any signs," he said. "We only realise he's under scrutiny because some of us can read. I see it as a bit of a witch hunt and I think it is unjustified, but you wouldn't tell from way he carries himself. He's very laid-back and phlegmatic. He's the best captain in world cricket and a world-class opening batsman. He'll get nothing but support from me."

Barring his first two Tests against India in 2008, during Kevin Pietersen's brief time in charge and the two games Alastair Cook captained in Bangladesh, Swann has played his entire Test career under Strauss. He believes there is still a huge amount of credit available to him for his time at the helm which has included two Ashes series victories and the climb to No. 1 in the world.

"When anyone's in a position like Straussy and when things aren't going well like they have been then pressure builds up," he said. "My view is that he should be afforded leeway because of what he's done over the last two or three years.

"I don't think there's any man as capable of leading a team in world cricket. He's not in horrible nick, he's getting good starts and it's just one of those things all players go through. His barren spell is a lot better than other people's has been and he'll bounce back and be scoring hundreds before you know it."

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • JG2704 on April 6, 2012, 20:32 GMT

    @zenboomerang on (April 05 2012, 07:33 AM GMT) Sorry bud , I stand by my comms. I have tried to explain properly in a post but for some reason it hasn't been published after trying a few times so maybe some other time.No prob with you or most other Aus commenters like JBW and Meety who come on our threads and give honest cricket comms.

  • Sandshoe-Crusher on April 5, 2012, 10:01 GMT

    Its typical of the English press really, they do their best to force someone to retire through negative comments. English cricket is hardly brimming with talent waiting in the wings to step into the boots of the incumbent players. Selectors are well paid and have a job to do which is to select the best possible team it is not up to the players to stand down because the selectors don't have the backbone to pick the best 11. There is to my knowledge no one in county cricket of such obvious talent that playing Strauss seems a grave mistake.

  • spiritwithin on April 5, 2012, 9:00 GMT

    @Valavan..Dhoni being good or poor wont make Strauss a better batsman or a better captain..a batting average barely crossing 40 makes him an average batsman,and dhoni is a wicketkeepr who can bat unlike Strauss who's a genuine batsman and when u asked how many tests Dhoni won in OZ well well may i ask how many Strauss won in subcontinent??the fact is England's series win in ashes and against india is just a purple patch and not an indicator of the coming of a new era,this english team is no way better than most english fans & former Eng cricketers painted everywhere,so its better not to make big nioses which most of u r doing

  • RandyOZ on April 5, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    Of course Swann would support Strauss, his spot is equally shaky. Both are in terrible form and don't really deserve their spots.

  • zenboomerang on April 5, 2012, 7:33 GMT

    @jmcilhinney... Agree... Its like all the T20 haters that come on & just sledge regardless of the article... If you don't like it, don't comment - go elsewhere... There are a lot of better things to do in this world...

  • zenboomerang on April 5, 2012, 7:33 GMT

    @JG2704 :- "other countries fans are on it like a bunch of school children"... lol... Perhaps you should have added "some" at the start of that sentence & also added that there are many English fans that continually ridicule India & Oz articles with pointless sledges... As you say - pot calling the kettle... No one lives on the high ground here...

  • JG2704 on April 5, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    @Rooboy on (April 05 2012, 06:54 AM GMT) To be fair bud , you don't know the full amount of what is written in the English press or how some may behave towards Strauss and we don't know what goes on re Ponting. I actually do agree with you on Punchdrunkpunter's comms in that Aussia and India media obviously have no impact whatsoever on team England. Silly comms. But maybe the phrase Witch Hunt is slightly exaggerating but then again is the Witch Hunt phrase ever actually a Witch Hunt? Other than that it seems by many of these comms that it's a Swann hunt because what he said is pretty much what you'd expect any player to say about his captain

  • Valavan on April 5, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    @V_giri, What you try to say here. Swann backs up his captain, even any of you whine about strauss, as fans we support our captain. Strauss is very humble and down to earth, he never hits out at umpires as done by dhoni or punter. what did dhoni achive - 2 WC wins and Test no.1, Strauss already achieved Test no.1 so atleast 33% is achieved, btw England rate Tests higher than any other format. Great batting of Dhoni can be limited to ODIs and T20s, ask dhoni to open in tests and ask him to bat, Strauss is miles ahead of Dhoni when it comes to batting in Tests, Strauss scored test centuries in India (3), SA (3), WI (3) and 1 each in NZ and Australia. How much did Dhoni score out of India, just 1 that too in Pakistan. Any noises you make here is irrelevant as Strauss is only playing Tests and captaining in tests, so noises about ODI you can make if England plays ODIs. Strauss is far way better TEST captain than MS Dhoni. How many tests did MSD won in OZ? cricinfo please publish.

  • JG2704 on April 5, 2012, 7:02 GMT

    @v_giri on (April 04 2012, 21:36 PM GMT) Well done for living in the PAST.

  • JG2704 on April 5, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    I'm sorry but Swann gets accused of talking alot of nonsense. What exactly is nonsense about what he says here? Loads of pot,kettle,black going on here And even when he said England were probably favourites - which he said with a grin on his face - what's wrong with a bit of positivity? Strauss may have had a lean time with the bat but I feel his on field captaincy has by and large been good . It's actually quite funny that as soon as you mention something an Eng player - esp Swann or Broad or KP says - other countries fans are on it like a bunch of school children desperate to put their silly comms across like they are constructive or innovative. Probably having the backing of guys like Swann is what keeps Strauss going when the chips are down. What should Swann do? If he talks people accuse him of talking rubbish , if he refuses to talk he'll be seen as ignorant?

  • JG2704 on April 6, 2012, 20:32 GMT

    @zenboomerang on (April 05 2012, 07:33 AM GMT) Sorry bud , I stand by my comms. I have tried to explain properly in a post but for some reason it hasn't been published after trying a few times so maybe some other time.No prob with you or most other Aus commenters like JBW and Meety who come on our threads and give honest cricket comms.

  • Sandshoe-Crusher on April 5, 2012, 10:01 GMT

    Its typical of the English press really, they do their best to force someone to retire through negative comments. English cricket is hardly brimming with talent waiting in the wings to step into the boots of the incumbent players. Selectors are well paid and have a job to do which is to select the best possible team it is not up to the players to stand down because the selectors don't have the backbone to pick the best 11. There is to my knowledge no one in county cricket of such obvious talent that playing Strauss seems a grave mistake.

  • spiritwithin on April 5, 2012, 9:00 GMT

    @Valavan..Dhoni being good or poor wont make Strauss a better batsman or a better captain..a batting average barely crossing 40 makes him an average batsman,and dhoni is a wicketkeepr who can bat unlike Strauss who's a genuine batsman and when u asked how many tests Dhoni won in OZ well well may i ask how many Strauss won in subcontinent??the fact is England's series win in ashes and against india is just a purple patch and not an indicator of the coming of a new era,this english team is no way better than most english fans & former Eng cricketers painted everywhere,so its better not to make big nioses which most of u r doing

  • RandyOZ on April 5, 2012, 8:28 GMT

    Of course Swann would support Strauss, his spot is equally shaky. Both are in terrible form and don't really deserve their spots.

  • zenboomerang on April 5, 2012, 7:33 GMT

    @jmcilhinney... Agree... Its like all the T20 haters that come on & just sledge regardless of the article... If you don't like it, don't comment - go elsewhere... There are a lot of better things to do in this world...

  • zenboomerang on April 5, 2012, 7:33 GMT

    @JG2704 :- "other countries fans are on it like a bunch of school children"... lol... Perhaps you should have added "some" at the start of that sentence & also added that there are many English fans that continually ridicule India & Oz articles with pointless sledges... As you say - pot calling the kettle... No one lives on the high ground here...

  • JG2704 on April 5, 2012, 7:23 GMT

    @Rooboy on (April 05 2012, 06:54 AM GMT) To be fair bud , you don't know the full amount of what is written in the English press or how some may behave towards Strauss and we don't know what goes on re Ponting. I actually do agree with you on Punchdrunkpunter's comms in that Aussia and India media obviously have no impact whatsoever on team England. Silly comms. But maybe the phrase Witch Hunt is slightly exaggerating but then again is the Witch Hunt phrase ever actually a Witch Hunt? Other than that it seems by many of these comms that it's a Swann hunt because what he said is pretty much what you'd expect any player to say about his captain

  • Valavan on April 5, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    @V_giri, What you try to say here. Swann backs up his captain, even any of you whine about strauss, as fans we support our captain. Strauss is very humble and down to earth, he never hits out at umpires as done by dhoni or punter. what did dhoni achive - 2 WC wins and Test no.1, Strauss already achieved Test no.1 so atleast 33% is achieved, btw England rate Tests higher than any other format. Great batting of Dhoni can be limited to ODIs and T20s, ask dhoni to open in tests and ask him to bat, Strauss is miles ahead of Dhoni when it comes to batting in Tests, Strauss scored test centuries in India (3), SA (3), WI (3) and 1 each in NZ and Australia. How much did Dhoni score out of India, just 1 that too in Pakistan. Any noises you make here is irrelevant as Strauss is only playing Tests and captaining in tests, so noises about ODI you can make if England plays ODIs. Strauss is far way better TEST captain than MS Dhoni. How many tests did MSD won in OZ? cricinfo please publish.

  • JG2704 on April 5, 2012, 7:02 GMT

    @v_giri on (April 04 2012, 21:36 PM GMT) Well done for living in the PAST.

  • JG2704 on April 5, 2012, 7:01 GMT

    I'm sorry but Swann gets accused of talking alot of nonsense. What exactly is nonsense about what he says here? Loads of pot,kettle,black going on here And even when he said England were probably favourites - which he said with a grin on his face - what's wrong with a bit of positivity? Strauss may have had a lean time with the bat but I feel his on field captaincy has by and large been good . It's actually quite funny that as soon as you mention something an Eng player - esp Swann or Broad or KP says - other countries fans are on it like a bunch of school children desperate to put their silly comms across like they are constructive or innovative. Probably having the backing of guys like Swann is what keeps Strauss going when the chips are down. What should Swann do? If he talks people accuse him of talking rubbish , if he refuses to talk he'll be seen as ignorant?

  • Rooboy on April 5, 2012, 6:54 GMT

    Whine much swann? Fair criticism is now a witch hunt huh? Hate to hear what his bleating would be like if strauss had copped a fraction of what's been thrown at Punter. lol rednwhitearmy, congrats on missing the point. Punchdrunkpunter stated that this campaign was from the biased Aus (and Indian) media. Which is laughable. Mitcher is (correctly) making the point that with football season having just started over here, and Aus about to start a test series of their own, this series is getting so little attention in the Aus media as to make it irrelevant to the avg Aus sports fan. I don't think too many are hurting over the Ashes, Aus were beaten by a better team so we'll cop that. Our time at the top spanned over a decade and is coming round again, your time at the top lasted a year or so and is almost over. Good luck if you think that's worth gloating over

  • RednWhiteArmy on April 5, 2012, 4:01 GMT

    @Mitcher irrelevant series? hahaha still hurting from the ashes huh?

  • RednWhiteArmy on April 5, 2012, 3:59 GMT

    Lot of english haters....you should worry about your own countries cos at the moment were ranked above you

  • jmcilhinney on April 5, 2012, 2:43 GMT

    I'm getting a bit sick of people commenting here telling Graeme Swann to keep his thoughts to himself. He is in a press conference and he's asked a question by a journalist. Is he supposed to say "no comment"? If you don't like reading Graeme Swann's opinions then maybe you should stop reading stories whose titles tell you that they contain Graeme Swann's opinions. Those same people don't seem especially shy about providing their opinions here, do they? If you disagree with Swann then by all means say so and provide your reasons and I will be very keen to read them. If you think that Graeme Swann should shut up then chances are you should stop leaving useless comments on these stories yourself.

  • dunedintech on April 5, 2012, 1:06 GMT

    "The best captain in world cricket", umm wake up Swanny. Barring the Ashes England have not won away from home for a very long time. Misbah would have to be the best captain in world cricket at the moment considering every series / game is away from home.

  • me54321 on April 5, 2012, 0:45 GMT

    This really is a bit of a non-story. Swann's comments only really merit a reference in another article rather than a whole article about them. It's only of passing interest to an England fan, so it's very hard to understand why non-England fans are even reading the article, let alone commenting on it.

  • maddy20 on April 5, 2012, 0:29 GMT

    @pom_don When did Indian media start talking about Strauss amigo. Needless to say these English fans are obsessed about Indians and Aussies. Whenever they lose or win these two will be the obvious targets. Wise up poms!

  • on April 5, 2012, 0:01 GMT

    He is one of 11 players, and as the Captain, probably the best in the World. I haven't read so much rubbish in years

  • Mitcher on April 4, 2012, 22:04 GMT

    @PunchDrunkPunter: Paranoid much mate? Which Australian media is driving a campaign against Strauss? It's football season. You'd struggle to find more than 3 paragraphs on this irrelevant series.

  • v_giri on April 4, 2012, 21:36 GMT

    The problem with England is double standards - 10k reasons if Straussy goes wrong. If Dhoni goes wrong it is because England is way better. Regardless of what Strauss achieves, he wont achieve 20% of Dhoni - Test No.1, WC wins and WC world cup AND great batting. Swann - For a change please face reality

  • JG2704 on April 4, 2012, 21:00 GMT

    @DocBindra on (April 04 2012, 18:53 PM GMT) Funny enough , you could replace the word Swann with your own name - and the whole post would make sense

  • PanGlupek on April 4, 2012, 20:38 GMT

    "Players stick up for thier skipper": Bit of a non-story, really. Might have been worth reading if Swann came out & said "Everyone was right to be on his back, he's been awful recently", but lets face it, when do players ever do that?!

    In fairness to Strauss though, he did get a ton in the warm-up game, and just seems to find ways of getting out rather than looking all at sea. Also, opening bats can always get out cheaply against a new ball, even if in great nick, so in a way, Swann's comments were justified. He is a very good skipper too, if not a tactical mastermind, but not sure that alone would have carried him forever.

  • AdrianVanDenStael on April 4, 2012, 20:08 GMT

    @pom_don: a) I didn't actually say Strauss should be dropped, only that he wasn't pulling his weight, as everyone with eyes to see (Strauss included, to judge by his public statements) admits, b) In point of fact England's usual practice in recent time has been to drop batsmen with this sort of form. If you look at the decision to drop Morgan two games ago, to drop Bell and later Bopara in 2009, and to drop Strauss in 2008 (and to drop Thorpe and Key in 2005) they had all been making hundreds at a better rate than one every thirty matches. In fact the only England specialist batsman I can think of who was allowed to play thirty tests for England in the course of which he only made 1 century or less was Mike Brearley. If such players exist for other countries, I can't think of many recently playing for teams who've had pretensions of being world beaters.

  • 2.14istherunrate on April 4, 2012, 19:55 GMT

    The media are obsessed with the player(s) who are not making runs and one hears about this matter ad nauseam. Obviously the players are a lot less so on the surface.But then again their business is to contribute to the team and not to make up stories to go in print. The fact of the matter is that the press have to find something to put in their paper, however spurious. In the case of this tour and UAE there has been a collective batting disaster, like synchronised non batting.

  • samudralakiku on April 4, 2012, 19:38 GMT

    @PunchDrunkPunter - There is no one more biased than English media. Everyone is aware of that. Stop being cynical when you are at the receiving end.

  • pochard on April 4, 2012, 19:34 GMT

    The title of the article is a bit dramatic considering what Swann actually said. Anyway, Strauss is the wrong target. Considering this winter has been a general across-the-board batting failure, the logical culprit is the batting coach and that is whose position should be under scrutiny. All England's established batsmen have proved themselves several times over, so dropping any of them would be a mistake that would only worsen matters. Especially the captain. I mean, how exactly does dropping someone fix anything? Fortunately the selection committee don't appear to be as daft as the media.

  • LBW2012 on April 4, 2012, 19:26 GMT

    Swann, can you let your bowling and batting do the talking please? had enough of this "Swann " comments

  • msq3761 on April 4, 2012, 19:09 GMT

    Swann also said that England would beat Pakistan in the 3rd test by 10 wickets. Did not happen. He's not much of an expert, I believe..

  • DocBindra on April 4, 2012, 18:53 GMT

    Swann, quiet...too much jargon and what are you really going on about? Any test playing captain who has 1 hundred in 48 innings will hear his critics. Any player from any nation would hear it, so what is the issue? Its not necessary to hear Swann's nonsense every time England plays. Maybe he didn't get enough attention growing up but please...witch hunt, really?

  • pom_don on April 4, 2012, 18:23 GMT

    @AdrianVanDenStael if you class a specialist batsman as 'not pulling his weight' for only making one test century in 30 matches you would be getting rid of an awful lot of international test batting specialists from a good mix of countries.

  • on April 4, 2012, 18:03 GMT

    Players do seem a little over sensitive to criticism these days.

  • PunchDrunkPunter on April 4, 2012, 17:57 GMT

    WELL SAID GRAEME! The Biased Indian and Australian media should be ashamed!

  • on April 4, 2012, 17:54 GMT

    its good for england that the players fully support their captain unlike asian teams.... but i just get the feeling that swann talks way too much...and most of the time without any solid reason.....'we are still favourites" thats what he said at the end of the third day in galle and england lost....there is a hell lot of pride in his tone which ultimately proves to be his downfall

  • jackthelad on April 4, 2012, 16:58 GMT

    These days, with the prevalence of short-order cricket, we're in danger of forgetting the basics. You don't need a load of pseudo-'allrounders', you need a handfull of proper batsmen and four proper bowlers. Sorry to sound like an old fogey, but these are the basics, and always will be.

  • on April 4, 2012, 16:55 GMT

    Good for Andrew Strauss... yes, it is true... he was hounded by the England press on the eve of the 2nd test.

    Sanga will get ~100 in the 2nd innings,and SL will play for a draw.

  • jackthelad on April 4, 2012, 16:48 GMT

    The classic advice was - and still should be - 'choose a captain, five batsmen, a wicket-keeper and four bowlers' - that's all you need.

  • AdrianVanDenStael on April 4, 2012, 16:22 GMT

    Swann is bound to support Strauss, but it is a bit excessive to describe him as a victim of a "witch hunt". Anyone (Strauss included) can see that a specialist batsman who makes 1 test century in 30 matches hasn't exactly being pulling his weight. (And that century from memory benefited from a fortunate umpiring decision when Strauss had hardly scored.) Strauss's recent record in test matches is actually worse than this player's career: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/21466.html

  • jackthelad on April 4, 2012, 16:17 GMT

    Good on you, Swanny, Strauss may not be a great batsman, but he's by a long way the best Test captain in current international cricket. One recalls that a certain Mr. Brearley wasn't exactly a Bradman - but his presence as captain was worth a scad of runs every match.

  • Kruger81 on April 4, 2012, 16:13 GMT

    Swan also said on the third day of the Galle test "we are favourites to win this test match"! Fact is, if England lose this test there will be, despite the outpouring of support now, serious questions about the leadership of the team as well as individual performances.

  • on April 4, 2012, 15:32 GMT

    Hah! I don't disagree that the witch-hunt is unfair, but I hope now people realize what happens when the results aren't forthcoming and personal form is under scrutiny. When the same happened to Dhoni or Jayawardene, this bunch was dismissive saying "oh, they can't deal with pressure - they can't play well outside their comfort zone". And the "best captain in World cricket" is still firmly with Jayawardene, and perhaps Graeme Smith in the second spot at the moment. Strauss is an average captain of an "excellent team".

  • jmcilhinney on April 4, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    Of course the rest of the team is behind him, as they should be. Strauss has done a lot for English cricket. Much more than just his batting average. He should be afforded some leeway as a result and so he has. That leeway must have a limit though. This latest innings will have pushed that limit out a little further but Strauss is going to want a pretty good home summer to prove that he still belongs. I'm not sure that even Mike Brearley could survive on his captaincy alone these days and Strauss is not Mike Brearley, at least not on the field.

  • on April 4, 2012, 15:20 GMT

    Graeme Swann talks too much and also a load of nonsense to boot!

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  • on April 4, 2012, 15:20 GMT

    Graeme Swann talks too much and also a load of nonsense to boot!

  • jmcilhinney on April 4, 2012, 15:23 GMT

    Of course the rest of the team is behind him, as they should be. Strauss has done a lot for English cricket. Much more than just his batting average. He should be afforded some leeway as a result and so he has. That leeway must have a limit though. This latest innings will have pushed that limit out a little further but Strauss is going to want a pretty good home summer to prove that he still belongs. I'm not sure that even Mike Brearley could survive on his captaincy alone these days and Strauss is not Mike Brearley, at least not on the field.

  • on April 4, 2012, 15:32 GMT

    Hah! I don't disagree that the witch-hunt is unfair, but I hope now people realize what happens when the results aren't forthcoming and personal form is under scrutiny. When the same happened to Dhoni or Jayawardene, this bunch was dismissive saying "oh, they can't deal with pressure - they can't play well outside their comfort zone". And the "best captain in World cricket" is still firmly with Jayawardene, and perhaps Graeme Smith in the second spot at the moment. Strauss is an average captain of an "excellent team".

  • Kruger81 on April 4, 2012, 16:13 GMT

    Swan also said on the third day of the Galle test "we are favourites to win this test match"! Fact is, if England lose this test there will be, despite the outpouring of support now, serious questions about the leadership of the team as well as individual performances.

  • jackthelad on April 4, 2012, 16:17 GMT

    Good on you, Swanny, Strauss may not be a great batsman, but he's by a long way the best Test captain in current international cricket. One recalls that a certain Mr. Brearley wasn't exactly a Bradman - but his presence as captain was worth a scad of runs every match.

  • AdrianVanDenStael on April 4, 2012, 16:22 GMT

    Swann is bound to support Strauss, but it is a bit excessive to describe him as a victim of a "witch hunt". Anyone (Strauss included) can see that a specialist batsman who makes 1 test century in 30 matches hasn't exactly being pulling his weight. (And that century from memory benefited from a fortunate umpiring decision when Strauss had hardly scored.) Strauss's recent record in test matches is actually worse than this player's career: http://www.espncricinfo.com/ci/content/player/21466.html

  • jackthelad on April 4, 2012, 16:48 GMT

    The classic advice was - and still should be - 'choose a captain, five batsmen, a wicket-keeper and four bowlers' - that's all you need.

  • on April 4, 2012, 16:55 GMT

    Good for Andrew Strauss... yes, it is true... he was hounded by the England press on the eve of the 2nd test.

    Sanga will get ~100 in the 2nd innings,and SL will play for a draw.

  • jackthelad on April 4, 2012, 16:58 GMT

    These days, with the prevalence of short-order cricket, we're in danger of forgetting the basics. You don't need a load of pseudo-'allrounders', you need a handfull of proper batsmen and four proper bowlers. Sorry to sound like an old fogey, but these are the basics, and always will be.

  • on April 4, 2012, 17:54 GMT

    its good for england that the players fully support their captain unlike asian teams.... but i just get the feeling that swann talks way too much...and most of the time without any solid reason.....'we are still favourites" thats what he said at the end of the third day in galle and england lost....there is a hell lot of pride in his tone which ultimately proves to be his downfall