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Tanya's Take

Good on you, Graeme

He's a crowd pleaser, an effortless charmer, a top-drawer spinner and better than a lower-order biffer. If the IPL doesn't want Swann, it's their loss, really

Tanya Aldred
Tanya Aldred
Graeme Swann tosses the ball, England v Australia, 4th Test, Headingley, 2nd day, August 8, 2009

No IPL? I'll just go to ... wait for it ... Celebrity Apprentice  •  Getty Images

Hey IPL, I think you've missed a trick. There is an offspinner out there you may have heard of. He is a bit wacky and a bit gobby but full of heart and fun? You got it, Graeme Swann. Okay, he's got non-Bollywood pointy teeth, and real crinkle lines around his eyes, but he's pretty popular out on the street. Oh, and at least in Test cricket, he often takes a wicket with the first few balls of a spell - it could be a useful asset for Twenty20. He's always wanted to be a rock star, loves cricket, isn't jaded, engages fulsomely with the crowd, and has a strut all of his own. He's an IPL dream - but yet, in the auction last week none of you wanted him.
Okay, he'd have missed a couple of weeks while he was in Bangladesh, and his reserve price was high - $250,000 - but to receive not a bid? The man would have been a galactico. He'd have revelled in the attention, the cheerleaders, the din, the money, and of course, the cricket. He loves it - he spent 10 years on the county circuit, playing six years for deeply unfashionable Northants, and he's thrilled to be wearing an England cap. He's off to Bangladesh with a smile not a snarl. To be chosen for the IPL as well would have sent him into the stratosphere.
In the past the English offspinner was a creature straight out of the real ale and stamp-collecting subgroup. There was usually a plucky spirit, a good arm ball, tenacity, and an anxiously creased brow, but not a thousand-watt smile. John Emburey added to that a filthy tongue, Fred Titmus a suitcase full of wisecracks, Ray Illingworth a scrapbook's worth of plain speaking. And Jim Laker brought a record that will stand for the next 100 years - though even in 1956 you might have thought that 19 Test wickets in a match merited more than a handshake.
But Swann - he plays with effortless charm. And a maturity about success that comes with making it at 29 rather than 21. And he hasn't just rescued the English offspinner, but offspinners in general. Go back 10 years and Shane Warne has just been named one of the cricketers of the century. Murali was a wicket-taking machine, the offspinner was a lost species looking to a future in the Lord's museum alongside the famous stuffed sparrow and the Ashes urn.
But now - doosra, what doosra? Good old-fashioned, fuss-free offspinning is the thing. Swanny66, his Twitter account, has over 32,000 followers. And whereas you got the feeling that Monty Panesar tolerated the crowd's affection, Swann milks every moment. He knows what it is like to play to an empty ground and on a dodgy pitch in a game that is going nowhere. Adulation? Yes, please.
In his previous incarnation for England - a tour of South Africa in 1999-2000 - he behaved, in his own words, as "a bit of an arse". He did okay when he had the opportunity but did not endear himself to Duncan Fletcher, and found himself on the international scrapheap before his 21st birthday.
He kept working, both at his batting and his bowling and it paid huge dividends. As S Rajesh worked out, his batting average of 32.81 is, of English batsmen playing at No. 8 or lower and who have played 20 innings, the highest in Test history. He has annoyed many opposing attacks and just recently with Graham Onions held the rampaging South Africans at bay. He took two wickets in his first over in Test cricket, against India in Chennai, and has taken a wicket in the first over of a spell in Test cricket 11 times. And won the Ashes in his very first series against Australia.
Best still, he makes watching England, a ball. He's not as naturally talented as Andrew Flintoff or Kevin Pietersen, nor does he empty the bars in the same way. But you root for him, and he rewards you. And if the IPL don't want him, his future on Saturday night telly seems assured.

Tanya Aldred lives in Manchester. She writes occasionally for the Guardian