Tag Archives: Graeme Swann

Forget Swann, England need a phoenix

24 Dec

TN2013Dec23122214_457226649Into the cavernous bowl of the mighty Melbourne Cricket Ground splutters this most disastrous of tours for England, determined to show some semblance of fight against an apparently unstoppable Australian cricket team. As if losing the Ashes wasn’t painful enough, the announcement over the weekend that Graeme Swann had retired from all cricket was salt in the wounds, and a sterner test of character has rarely laid in store for an English team.
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Cricket writer wanted: previous experience – England cap

22 Dec

kerry_packer_1468411aWhen Graeme Swann announced his retirement, he did a video for the ECB website. Amidst all the usual ‘Swannerisms’ that I, as an England fan first and foremost love, was an interesting titbit that alluded to an attitude that has pervaded the professional cricket scene for a number of years.

When asked the question “Any journalists you’re going to miss?”, he replied, with a wry smile, “I’ll miss them all, y’know. They’re all doing their job, aren’t they? And just ‘cos one or two of them have never played a game of cricket in their lives doesn’t mean they’re bad writers… I think their lack of a degree makes them a bad writer.” He paused before continuing “No I won’t miss them. It’s all part of the game, it’s all the cat and mouse part of the game and without them cricket wouldn’t be as big as it is, and without cricket they wouldn’t have a job.”

This sat very uneasily with me. Aged 16, as I trudged back to the pavilion after another uninspiring foray into the world of the straight drive, I realised that I was never going to play cricket for England. A few years, and one degree later I chose to use my hands and brain to dedicate at least these early years of my adult life to writing about cricket. Why? Because I love it, and because I can. Cricket is a fascinating game to write and think about. But open up the newspaper, or look at who’s commentating on TV and you’ll notice an alarming trend – the number of ex-professional cricketers pontificating on air or in print is as high as ever.

Swann’s comments, as ever taken with a pinch of salt, echo Stuart Broad’s sentiments in an interview with former England captain Michael Vaughan for the BBC before this Ashes tour. When Vaughan read out an excessively vitriolic quote from an article penned for ESPNCricinfo by an amateur writer, Broad got defensive. “What, was it written by, like, a blogger or something?”, he asked Vaughan, who replied “Well, I wouldn’t say it was a top-“, “Who was it?”, Broad interrupted. “-it’s by a guy called Rob Steen”, replied Vaughan. A pause. “Never heard of ‘im”, Broad sniffed dismissively, before saying with enlightening casualness “If you’d have written that, I’d have gone, ‘that’s a bit harsh, Vaughany, what’s that about?’, or if ‘Beefy had of said it, or someone I have heard of or was a good writer about cricket…but… that’s just his opinion.”

The opinion that only ex-sportsmen have the right to describe what it is like to play sport for one’s country is a growing and, frankly, incorrect one. The insight that only those blessed with the prerequisite talent to get inside the dressing room can deliver is fascinating but not the heart of what cricket writing is about. On the whole, what they (and I, I hasted to add) don’t have is a journalism degree. The vast majority of cricket writers, on the other hand, who come from a non-playing background spent three years at university learning their trade, in a similar way to the hours put in in the nets by the sportsmen to do their job.

It is arrogance of the highest level to dismiss a trained journalist, be it print or broadcast, for having an opinion, or trying to make their way in the profession because they haven’t played whatever sport they are writing about to the highest level. It is this arrogance which has seen an uneasy truce played out between the English cricket team and the media caravan that trails around after the players like a gaggle of groupies.

This snobbery just goes on and on. The players don’t respect the authorial opinion of someone who might only have turned out for a couple of games for Woodbridge & Old Woodbridgians CC but is a brilliant writer with a turn of phrase as delicate as a turn through the leg side by Ranji. Yet if they played cricket with them not three years ago before being snapped up by a newspaper editor with an eye for a headline from an ‘exclusive source’ then the revolving doors keep on swinging, and the players will blindly respect their writing, be it insightful or otherwise.

There are exceptions to the rule. Mike Selvey, who writes for the Guardian and previously worked on BBC TMS is a brilliant writer who bowled for England and Middlesex. Martin Crowe, the former New Zealand batsman, is an exceptional author too, who wrote one of the most moving pieces on depression following Trott’s departure from the Ashes tour. And in the commentary box, one needn’t go further than Richie Benaud for a former cricketer who has made the airwaves his own with his perfect understanding of when silence is all that is needed.

When the great Christopher Martin-Jenkins passed away, it was often said that he would be the last journalist to capture the essence of the game without the experience of playing for England. And when Graeme Swann, a man whom I will respect as a cricketer for evermore, starts gaining more column inches or radio and TV airtime, the dream of emulating CMJ and before him Neville Cardus slips further and further away for the amateur writer.

Who is England’s next spinner?

22 Dec

fbe43746-7456-4985-b2c1-be51b751beeb-460x2761) Monty Panesar

Natural successor to Swann by virtue of a) his presence on the current Ashes tour and b) his 166 Test wickets. Still can’t bat and still can’t field but he’s always ‘trying’. Having said that, the balls he showed when being peppered by Mitchell Johnson during the Adelaide Test match just gone was commendable. Question marks over his mental toughness remain due to the fact that he’s cut from totally different cloth to the rest of the England team – but that doesn’t mean he isn’t good enough. At the age of 31 the England set up might want to pass an edict on his high-leaping celebrations to preserve the joints, mind.

2) Danny Briggs

Played a couple of T20s and ODIs for England and is still only 22. A regular performer in the limited overs stuff for Hampshire, like Panesar he is a left arm orthodox spinner. There’s plenty of potential but he has a very long way to go until England will seriously consider him for Test cricket.

3) Scott Borthwick

Bats at 3 for Durham and rolls his arm over with some interesting leggies – he’s almost an English Steve Smith. Except Borthwick is much more than that. He’s a genuine leg spinner with over 100 first class wickets at the age of 23, and a batting average that’s at 30 and rising. It’s less his stats, more his status. He’s another prodigy from the Geoff Cook school up in Durham and, like his famous comrade Ben Stokes, his ‘ticker’ is widely praised. For those not au fait with current popular Australian slang terms being bastardised into the native English lexicon, read: guts.

4) James Tredwell

The mighty Tredders has come up the ranks at break neck speed and, although he looks like Pingu, he is probably England’s 2nd spinner now. He’s their primary tweaker in ODI cricket and a consistent performer for Kent, and proof that no matter how apparently dull you are you can make it in international cricket. I’m sure he’s not boring, and Andy Flower definitely rates him. Though that could count for precisely zilch if Flower isn’t around at the end of this series, which is looking ominously likely. The era of Giles approaches.

4) A. N. Other

That’s pretty much it, I think. There are lots of spinners around, but very few are grabbing attention. Ollie Rayner bowls orthodox off spin for Middlesex and gives the ball an almighty clatter (he’s also 6’7″ and was in born in Germany, but that’s not totally relevant) so he could be a go-er. Adil Rashid continues to thrill and torture in equal measure, as does Samit Patel for Nottinghamshire.

With Graeme Swann’s departure, England will be frantically scouring the counties for a decent spinner, but the fact is that Swann was the best English spinner since… Emburey? In years to come, we’ll look back at Jim Laker, Derek Underwood and Graeme Swann. Fact.

Swann retires mid-series

22 Dec

Graeme SwannGraeme Swann has announced his retirement from cricket with immediate effect – ending his involvement in England’s Ashes tour and his career with Nottinghamshire County Cricket Club. He took 255 Test wickets, won three Ashes series and was part of the English team that won the World T20 in 2010.
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Why are Australia so bad?

31 Jul

Australia-had-frustrated-England-before-opener-Shane-Watson-was-lbw-to-a-Broad-inswinger-for-46-Watson-challenged-the-verdict-but-had-to-go-after-DRS-showed-the-ball-clipping-leg-stump-That-meant-the-all-rounder-wouldnt-A lot has been made of the quality of this Australian side in recent weeks and months. Plenty of it has been English gloating whilst there have been some more considered approaches to understanding why the most successful cricketing nation of all time has suffered such a severe decline. Trying to avoid too much of the former, here I will try to work it out.

The difficulty for great teams is how to ease the transition process from old to new. The West Indies team of the 70′s and 80′s are still in a rut whilst India have just about managed to smoothly go from Sehwag, Dravid, Laxman and Tendulkar to Dhawan, Pujara, Kohli and Jadeja. Yet Australia have not been as good at it, in fact, except for 2006/07 where they won the Ashes, Australia have been inconsistent and getting worse in the last 5 years as their great players retired.

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Life After Swann?

6 Mar


I posted this a few weeks ago about the future of spin bowling in England.  It was a piece written primarily for the Nottinghamshire CCC website and at the time I was blissfully ignoring the fact that Graeme Swann is actually getting old and will not be around forever.  It is crazy to think that he has only been playing for England for four years.  So given some time to think, I have come up with 3 people who I can imagine England turning to once Swann retires and shuffles off to Strictly Come Dancing/The One Show sofa/TMS/the Sky Sports commentary box.

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Which spinner will England turn to next?

19 Feb


England would have been forgiven for forgetting about their previous urge to produce a world class spinner given that for the past 5 years, Graeme Swann has been the go-to man.  He has turned in some match-winning performances over the years in claiming his 212 Test wickets but at the age of 33 England have to be realistic in expecting no more than two or three more years from him.  They will of course only have themselves to blame, for failing to pick him until he was 29.  So to whom will England turn once Swann retires?

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