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

Swann hits out at 'witch hunt'

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