Swann (n): 1. A Royal bird 2. A Regal bowler.

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I had expected to receive news of Graeme Swann’s retirement from International cricket sometime in the near future but had always anticipated that when he did call time on his England career, it would be like the spectacular ending to some movie premiere. Having performed countless death-defying stunts and saved the world from total devastation, he should slowly have drifted off into the faintly humming sunset, the ground on which he walked, glistening with gold. The reality of the situation could hardly be more different. Part of a miserable England Ashes tour of Australia and rumoured to have been omitted from the squad for the MCG test beginning on Boxing Day, the Nottinghamshire bowler has chosen to pack his bags and retire with immediate effect from all forms of cricket.

The purpose of this piece is not to speculate about the reasoning behind Swann’s decision, to formulate an opinion on whether he was within his rights to walk away before the tour reached its conclusion, but to congratulate him on excellent county and international careers. It took its time in coming. Until his move to Nottinghamshire in 2005, Swann aged 26 at the time, had done little to capture the imagination bar a single ODI appearance just after the turn of the Millennium. Sure, he had been a consistent performer for a team playing in the second tier but thoughts of another England call-up were a fading hope. Most would have thought that ship had long passed; indeed it had barely ever docked in the first place. Nottinghamshire were imperious in the 4 day game at the time of his arrival and clinched the 2005 Frizzell County Championship honours. As such, Swann’s main duties were to entertain the Trent Bridge crowd in the 45 over game – a competition that is no more. Under Stephen Fleming’s leadership, Notts employed Swann as an opening batsman, pinpointing him as a pinch-hitting player capable of getting the innings off to a flyer. In principle it was a cunning plan that they persevered with, but one which usually backfired to leave the Outlaws 2, 6 or 8-1. His frequent wild heaves across the line of the ball would pain every youth coach in the game! Having exchanged his bruising bat for the more familiar ball in the second innings, Swann immediately began to enjoy more success. Boasting 305 wickets in 269 appearances in the shorter forms of the game, his right arm orthodox was proving tricky to manoeuvre around. Never afraid to give the ball plenty of flight, the wily spinner was a constant menace and began to catch the eye. In addition to his bowling credentials, he was rarely spotted without his mischievous grin, a smirk capable of unnerving the coolest of customers. 2007 was to be his breakthrough campaign in the 4 day format though, a productive season that saw him snare 43 victims and earn a flight on the England plane to Sri Lanka. Although he was unused on the tour and played second-fiddle to Monty Panesar, he would soon exchange places with the charismatic slow left armer. Swann’s golden age began against India the following year when he became only the second player in the history of Test cricket to claim two wickets in his very first over. Rahul Dravid was one of those sent packing and from then on, no “wall” was reinforced adequately to prevent Swann from knocking it down. We all know the story from there: part of an Ashes victory (2009), earned a tied man of the series award in South Africa (2009), considered to be the world’s number 3 bowler (2010), pronounced ECB cricketer of the year (2010), involved in the demolition job of Pakistan (2010), T20 World Cup winner (2010), integral in another Ashes win (2010-11), gained the title of world’s number 1 spinner (2010-11), ranked the 2nd best Test match bowler (2011), became the world’s number 1 ODI bowler (2011), part of an England world number 1 squad (2011).

If Swanny should ever lay his eyes on this article, I hope to have fed his ego with this inexhaustible list of achievements. Even the methodical hand-picking of words seems insufficient to describe such a phenomenal rise in a career that for long periods had looked highly improbable. The elbow problem sustained in 2012 meant that England’s ‘go to’ man failed to ever hit the same lofty heights again and has ultimately led to the most difficult career decision. Take a look at the following video to hear his version of events.

So there we have it. Graeme Swann: Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire and England. The unlikely man who rose to take the world by storm. The England selectors will now be forced to mull over who his successor should be. Will it be the ever-reliable James Tredwell? Alternatively it may be the young Northern sensation, Scott Borthwick. Simon Kerrigan and Moeen Ali won’t want to be discounted either. However, all that for another day. For now, let’s raise a toast and say: “Swanny, thanks for the memories”.

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