Den Singende Swaen – Confessions of An Ex-Off-Spinner

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A cursory look at the word cloud on the right of this site will reveal Third Man’s frequent celebrations of the craft and professionalism of Graeme Swann.

TM was the first to write of the ‘revometer’ at Loughborough and the speed of rotations that Swann’s peerless and legitimate action got on the ball – rivaling those that many wrist spinners could achieve. 

In A Swann in Flight nearly four years ago he discussed the resulting mixtures of dip and turn he could achieve from either natural or deliberate variation of the position of the seam to alter the combination of dip and drift, and the quantity of contact the seam made with the pitch.

Last summer, Sky imported their own ‘revometer’ for the Ashes. Something puzzled Third Man. The new boy Agar was often getting the same rev count as Swann.  He put it down to the ‘theatre’ that a broadcaster may create from a liberal calibration of a ‘speed gun’ or a ‘rev counter’. But surely it was an early warning that Swann was struggling to get that ‘action’ on the ball that had made him so dangerous.

It is therefore very likely that the England performance team knew even last summer, but took a gamble on Swann’s elbow improving.  Certainly pre-tour preparations at Loughborough this autumn will have revealed a further deterioration.

The great mystery of the First (Gabba) Test was the complete absence of Swann’s drift or dip (neither of which are dependent on pitch or environmental factors). Graeme was a busted flush.  It is also likely that at sometime before the 1st summer Test at Trent Bridge, Australia had ‘clocked’ this and Lehmann’s instruction to his batsmen to ‘smash him’ was based not so much on ‘attitude’ but on ‘conviction’ that he no longer posed so great a threat and that Australia should play Swann version 2.013 and not Swann version 2.009.

When Swann finally announced his retirement, Third Man’s anger with the way this ‘servant’ of England and of the game had been treated boiled over in a ‘letter to Swann’ – They Shoot Horses Don’t They – People Are the Ultimate Spectacle

It is not for a professional cricketer to de-select himself.  That is the job of Management.

Yesterday (24th January 2014) Graeme Swann was asked on Twitter whether he was entering the UPL auction this year.

His reply was, “No mate, my elbow isn’t up to it I’m afraid”.

Today trailers of an interview with him for a Radio 5 programme to be broadcast tonight contained the admission that “Whenever I bowled in the past, I could always get a lot of revolutions on the ball, dip and trouble most batsmen I bowled at.

“But from the outset of the tour, in the warm-up matches, I just couldn’t do it. After my second elbow operation, I’ve never really got the same revolutions I got before it, but it just [deteriorated] and I really felt powerless to tie people down.

“In Adelaide, I was getting hit for six by a rabbit who bats at number 11. It gets to a point that you realise you are hindering the team. You are not helping them in any way.

“It’s a horrible feeling to come to terms with because you are playing for your country, you love playing cricket for England and it’s your life, but to actually come to that conclusion is possibly the most sobering decision I have ever had to make.

“It was horrendous.”

‘At the end of the Oval Test, I think “Why didn’t I just stop then?” I knew more or less that the time was coming up,’ he said.

‘But then I’d never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t come out here and given it a crack – we had the chance to potentially win four Ashes series on the bounce.’

England management sent two unfit ‘servants’ of the game over to Australia. There should be an inquiry into that and action taken.  Not solely because of the disastrous affect it had on the balance, the psychology and the capability of the touring party and the psychology of their opponents, but because of the dereliction of the duty of care that employers (the masters) have towards their employees (the servants).

It is an old fashion notion, this responsibility, but it is no less important for that.

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