Opinion: Swann exit counter-intuitive
The departure of another important and experienced player will only add to the feeling of an era ending in English cricket, and also more luridly to the suggestions of a tumultuous and uneasy dressing room, writes Freddie Wilde.
Whispers and rumours surrounding the retirement of Graeme Swann have been gaining traction since late in the English summer, however, the timing of the announcement, in the middle of an already tumultuous Ashes series comes as a surprise.
In a press conference held at the MCG on Sunday, Swann revealed that he made the decision to retire during the Perth Test match, and he went to head coach Andy Flower with the news, rather than, as some rumours suggested, the decision being instigated by him being dropped from the team for Melbourne.
Swann acknowledged in a statement that he felt this was a "great time for someone else to strap themselves in," and there's certainly weight to that argument, although the effect of a senior player leaving the squad mid-tour is impossible to gauge.
It is thought Swann made the rest of the team aware of his decision on the morning of the press conference and some were said to be "shocked".
England have already lost Jonathan Trott to a stress-related illness, and the departure of another important and experienced player will only add to the feeling of an era ending in English cricket, and also more luridly to the suggestions of a tumultuous and uneasy England dressing room.
The fact that Swann, as far as we know, was not nudged to this decision by the management, is intriguing in that while Swann claims the final two Tests will allow a new spinner to bed in – which is true, the management were unprepared for such a move.
While Monty Panesar will almost certainly be the short-term replacement, it is impossible to know whether it was him the management had in mind, if they had anyone, to take over from Swann in the long-term. Swann's idea of giving another bowler the chance to establish himself is well intentioned, but perhaps counter-intuitive.
What is certain is that this is a sudden and sad end to an outstanding international career. Swann finished with 255 Test wickets, second only for English spinners to Derek Underwood, and the most by an off-spinner. Swann won three Ashes series, taking 62 wickets in 18 Tests against Australia, as well as being involved in England's historic series win away in India, their ascent to the top of the Test rankings and the victorious World T20 campaign in the Caribbean.
He will be missed in limited-overs cricket too, but not as sorely as in the Test arena, where the replacements are not so obvious and his form more consistent. He will also leave a void in the slip cordon.
Having been strongly disliked by Duncan Fletcher there will probably have been a time during the mid-2000s, especially following the early success of Panesar, that Swann may have given up entirely on his international aspirations. It is testament to his perseverance, skill and the selectors that he got another opportunity, and to play 60 matches in five years since his debut, is a staggering physical achievement, a physical achievement that may in fact have had something to do with his hasty exit.
Ultimately this retirement is well intentioned, but in the current climate, considering the state of the series and the England team, it will no doubt only add to the growing claims that this is an England team in disarray. Whether it is, only time will tell.
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