The Ashes 2013-14

Graeme Swann retires mid-series

Brydon Coverdale

December 22, 2013

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Wasn't able to contribute to wins anymore - Swann

Graeme Swann, the England offspinner, has retired from all international cricket and first-class cricket with immediate effect.

Swann, 34, will not play in the final two Tests of the Ashes tour and will finish his career with 255 wickets at 29.96 from his 60 Tests. However, on a disappointing tour of Australia in which England have gone down 3-0 after the first three Tests, Swann has been one of the senior players who has failed to have an impact and has managed only seven wickets at 80.

Graeme Swann on...

  • Who should replace him...
  • "I think Monty's going to come in and do a great job in this game coming up this week. Whoever ends up taking the role full time I think they'll do a great job as well. Personally I hope little Scottie Borthwick gets a chance before long. He's a legspinner with a bit of x-factor and he can bat as well. Despite supporting Man City and Sunderland, two of the worst teams in England, he's a good guy."
  • What he'll miss the most...
  • "This England team has been my family for the best part of a decade now. You spend so much time with guys who you love to pieces. It's going to be really hard not going to breakfast with a miserable Jimmy Anderson every morning, breaking him in slowly through the day and seeing a smile about tea-time. Things like that will be hard."
  • The future of the England team...
  • "We've got very exciting young players in England. Ben Stokes showed last week what a great player he is. I think he could be a player you could almost build a team around, not putting pressure on him - well, that is putting pressure on him I suppose - but if he can continue in the vein of form he started in, you could build teams around players like that."
  • Telling Alastair Cook of his decision...
  • "He is one of my best mates so it should have been a very easy conversation but it actually made it doubly hard, just to sit down over a coffee and blurt it out. It was like one of his team talks, it didn't make any sense. But I got it out in the end."

He said that although he knew retirement was not far away earlier this year, given the struggle for his body to get through five-day matches, the temptation of potentially winning a fourth consecutive Ashes series had encouraged him to take part in the tour of Australia. Swann said that with the series decided and his mind made up, there was no point in playing on at the MCG or in Sydney.

"When I came out on this trip I half expected it to be my last tour for England," Swann said in Melbourne on Sunday. "I was desperately hoping to win the Ashes out here again like we did in 2010-11 but with the Ashes gone now in those three Test matches, personally I think to stay on and selfishly play just to experience another Boxing Day Test match and another Sydney Test match would be wrong.

"It would be wrong for the team, wrong for me as well. It's time for someone else to strap themselves in and enjoy the ride like I have done. It's time for England to rebuild and refocus on winning back these big series. Me hanging around with the decision already made in my head wouldn't be right.


Graeme Swann claimed two important wickets, Australia v England, 3rd Test, Perth, 1st day, December 13, 2013
Graeme Swann has retired from international and first-class cricket © Getty Images
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"My body doesn't like playing the long forms of cricket. My arm doesn't cope very well with bowling 30 or 40 overs in the first innings and then repeating it in the second innings a day later anymore. I could feel my performances tapering off in the back end of games and I wasn't happy with that. I'm not willing to just hang on and get by being a bit-part player. I want to be a guy who wins matches for England, and I don't feel I was doing that in the second innings anymore.

"It is disappointing. At the end of The Oval Test match last year, I think why didn't I just stop then? I knew more or less that the time was coming up. But then I'd never forgive myself. We had the chance of coming out here and potentially winning four Ashes series on the bounce. I'd never have forgiven myself had I not come out here and given it a crack."

Swann's decision means Monty Panesar is likely to take the role of lead spinner for the remaining two Tests, but the broader question of who will be England's long-term Test spinner remains unclear. Swann himself nominated the Durham legspinner Scott Borthwick as a potential replacement who could add to the all-round "x-factor" that Ben Stokes had already brought to the team on this tour.

Swann noted that the success of Stokes, who scored England's first century of the Ashes series in their defeat at the WACA, was indicative of the way the senior men had failed to stand up on this trip. It was a very different scenario in England earlier this year, when Swann was the leading wicket taker from either side with 26 victims, and at the time it appeared that he may still have some chance of surpassing Derek Underwood to become England's leading Test spinner of all time.

However, Swann will finish 42 wickets short of Underwood's tally of 297, leaving him sixth overall on England's all-time wicket tally behind Ian Botham, James Anderson, Bob Willis, Fred Trueman and Underwood. That was a significant achievement given that Swann did not make his Test debut until the age of 29, but his consistency meant that he missed only six of the 66 Tests that England had played since then.

Since his debut in December 2008, Swann was Test cricket's leading wicket taker from any country, his 255 victims well ahead of Anderson (232), Stuart Broad (207) and Dale Steyn (205), who were the next best in that period. He was Man of the Match on six occasions, most recently for his 10-wicket haul against New Zealand at Headingley in May. Swann told his England team-mates of his decision on Sunday morning in Melbourne.

"They've all been very supportive and congratulated me on my career and wished me luck for the future," he said. "I wished them all the luck in the world. I'm an England fan and I want to see England cricket No.1 in the world, winning games and winning Ashes series. I think the core of that team in the change room are the guys to do that."

England's coach, Andy Flower, said: "Graeme Swann has made an outstanding contribution to the England cricket team in all formats throughout an incredibly successful career and I would like to congratulate him on all that he has achieved.

"His commitment, competitive spirit and sense of humour have been recognised and admired by team-mates and supporters alike and he has played a big part in England's success over the last five years. The dressing room will be a very different place without Graeme's unique personality and I would like to wish him all the very best for the future."

Swann said his personal highlights included playing in three triumphant Ashes sides, as well as the World Twenty20 success in the West Indies in 2010. Apart from his Test appearances, Swann will depart with 104 wickets from 79 one-day internationals and 51 wickets from 39 Twenty20 internationals. He also paid tribute to his two county sides, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

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Posted by RohanMarkJay on (December 26, 2013, 10:47 GMT)

Graeme Swann, has been a terrific cricketer for England.As a follower and fan of the England Cricket Team through the years He is the best spinner for Eng and was a key player of making English cricket have one of its most successful periods in its history between 2009-2012. This has been an unhappy tour for the England Cricket team. A tour where everything went wrong. It is a tour which has claimed Jonathan Trott and now Graeme Swann at the age of 34 walks away from the game of cricket after entertaining us with fine off spin bowling.Where he was instrumental in being a key factor in the team wining matches and test series.Bowlers like this come around very rarely. I doubt we will see his like for Eng again .He will be sadly missed.I hope we can see him return in some formas a commentator or writer on the game.He is someone with a great sense of humour and we need someone like that to keep us smiling in these very cynical times. Best of luck Swann.You were a very good off spin bowler.

Posted by Catchthebail on (December 26, 2013, 5:24 GMT)

Honest cricketer. Not a superstar. Where were these keyboard warrior plaudits last week when his average was climbing- its 29.96. Thats bog standard. And not a classy individual re: recents comments- being sponsored by The Sun sums it up.

Posted by   on (December 24, 2013, 7:32 GMT)

Bet you Devon Smith will awake from his nightmares of Swann's torture and score big hundreds from now on!!

Posted by   on (December 24, 2013, 0:40 GMT)

Must respect Graeme on his decision to quit which is disappointment to his fans, but his outstanding record speaks for itself ! The man is a cricketing icon! It can't have been an easy decision for him to make, but I feel that there is an underlying point that has yet to be revealed. There is no doubt that Graeme has suffered from lack of form and that will have upset him immensely. I think he will have done a lot of soul searching and decided to accept a lot of the blame for Englands lack of form in this Ashes series. Mr. Swann, hold your head up high. We all know that there are many others who should also shoulder the blame! You really didnt have to sacrifice yourself for their shortcomings...... but sadly I just think that's what you have done. Good luck and success to you for the future.

Posted by Lmaotsetung on (December 24, 2013, 0:11 GMT)

Goodbye England HELLO IPL!!! Haven't been on Cricinfo for weeks as this has been my most depressing period of following the England team since I became a fan in 1980 but most Knowledgeable Eng fan saw that coming from a mile away. Disappointed that he chose to leave this way but I always knew he in it more for the fame and money than the achievements. Gonna be fun watching the rebuilding and I guess that's the next phase I'm looking forward to.

Posted by R_U_4_REAL_NICK on (December 23, 2013, 15:05 GMT)

Very surprised. Mixed emotions here: great cricketer and vital cog to England on the field; but too premature with his books and predictions off the field in my opinion. If his body is telling him "no - sorry, hang up your boots boy" then fair enough - and likewise he has been extremely selfless and realised the need to give new spinner(s) a chance. Honestly I knew fine well he stood no chance of making much impact in Australia this series, and the attacking nature of the Australians has meant he couldn't even perform a containing role. But I expected/hoped for a few more series from him, where he in all likelihood would have been back amongst the limelight. Farewell Mr Swann...

Posted by WC96QF on (December 23, 2013, 14:58 GMT)

Graeme Swann has been one of the greatest spin bowlers from England. One of the best from any country. I think its difficult to compare bowlers across eras. But 1 particular statistic is telling : during the time that he played Test cricket, he had the biggest haul of wickets among all Test bowlers ! I think thats as good as it gets.

During the time that you have played, if you are the best in the world, you cant ask much more from yourself. So, well played Graeme, and all the best for the future !!

Posted by   on (December 23, 2013, 11:43 GMT)

Passing of a great bowler. But the quetion must be, why risk him when he had just had an elbow op. Not recovered obviously. So three bad selections. Swann. Trott. Who was gone and could not cope in england, never mind oz. Should have been left at home. Three towering fast bowlers. Never been used apart from Tremlett. In one test. Selectors are partly responsible. Along with senior players. Not delivering the goods. Thats five men we all know,who they are. Thats the reason for this fiasco.

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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