Swann will be England’s x-factor throughout the India series
England’s Graeme Swann is on the verge of becoming the country’s most successful off-spinner, but he also knows that there is a lot of pressure on him to be the game-changer throughout the upcoming India Test series.
Swann is just one wicket shy of tying Jim Laker’s record of 193, and many cricket pundits are expecting him to surpass that with ease since the conditions in India highly favour spinners.
Swann has snapped up 39 wickets in 2012, but during the summer period he posted a less than impressive average of 59 as he picked up only ten wickets.
The off-spinner was also dropped for the first time in three years during England’s home series against South Africa, when he was not selected for the second Test at Headingley.
Recently, Swann has also been troubled by a chronic elbow injury, which has resulted in him watching many matches from the sidelines.
The team doctors advised Swann to rest his elbow as much as possible before the India series in order to ease the pain of floating bone fragments near to his nerve.
Swann also realises that his spin could do the trick in helping England register their first Test series victory against India since 1985.
Speaking exclusively to the Independent, Swann said: “As a spinner it stands to reason that when you go to the subcontinent people are going to look to you and how you bowl, but if we do turn up just expecting the spinner to win the series for us then we’re screwed. The key to Test cricket is that the more you play the more confident you get and the more confident you get ergo you bowl more consistently. Having looked at the schedule I know two of the pitches might turn, in Kolkata and Mumbai. I am not sure about the other two. I have been reliably informed that Nagpur is the flattest wicket ever devised by groundsmen but that was by Cooky, who got a hundred there on his debut.”
Recalling his first Test series in India in 2008, Swann remembered how iconic Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar smashed a glorious century to lead the home team to their target of 387 with six wickets to spare.
“It all started for me there and I can’t quite believe it has come round again so quickly, it all seems like a dream when I think about the start of it. I remember the smells that were wafting over the ground when I took the ball. It’s all very romantic when I think back. The rose-tinted glasses are removed of course because of the fact that we had 360-odd chased down at a canter by Mr Tendulkar. But it’s got fond memories for me personally because I did well. To realise that you can compete at a level that you have always had a sneaking suspicion that you weren’t good enough for is one of the greatest weights ever to be lifted off your shoulders. I will be indebted to those first two Test matches for making me realise it was just another game of cricket,” Swann added.
Swann’s performance with the ball will be as closely watched as Kevin Pietersen’s innings with the bat after being recalled into the Test squad.
Pietersen has not represented England in any match since August after he was found guilty of sending derogatory text messages about former Test captain Andrew Strauss to South African players during the Test series in the summer.
Upon apologising to Strauss, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) and his team-mates for his actions, Pietersen was granted a four-month central contract and recently completed his reintegration process.
Talking about the incident, Swann stated that he was glad everything had been sorted out, and added that it was time for the team to move on and focus on the task at hand.
“More than anything it is a good thing it is done and dusted, a line has been drawn under it and the actual cricket can go back to doing the talking rather than off-field antics. I am sure it can get back to how it was. I think a lot depended on Kevin. He seems in a place now where he is happy to play again, he has committed himself to the team and that’s good moving forward. I think that everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet now. I think there has been a bit of honesty and a bit of contriteness from certain parties. I think everybody is fed up with it and that’s why we just want to play cricket,” Swann said.