Swann treasures Warne respect
Graeme Swann is flattered Shane Warne rates him so highly - but just wishes the great leg-spinner could face him again now to see how much he has improved.
The 31-year-old has been a late-blossoming talent in international terms, to the point where he is currently ranked the world’s best spinner.
That elevation has come about after a near eight-year hiatus between his one-day international debut and his return to the England ranks, following the era of Duncan Fletcher as coach.
Swann himself acknowledges the advent of the decision review system has been a huge help to spinners of all types.
For orthodox off-break bowlers like him, clear and respected video evidence to support hundreds of lbw appeals which might otherwise have gone unanswered has changed the game forever.
As for the compliments coming his way from Warne - who curiously likened him to former Baywatch patriarch David Hasselhoff - at a time when Swann is being touted by many as the ’key’ to this winter’s Ashes in Australia, he admits to being a little perplexed as well as delighted.
“Of course it’s pleasing, coming from the best bowler there has ever been,” he said.
“But I was rubbish when I played against Warne five years ago. It’s nice that he remembers me, because I didn’t give him any reason to.”
For Swann, as with all of England’s Ashes hopefuls, success against Australia over the next three months will be a crowning moment of their careers.
He has already discovered that wickets will be hard won down under, having needed almost 50 overs to claim five at the cost of 161 runs in England’s victory over Western Australia.
Like several of his team-mates, Swann improved through the course of that match - which finished yesterday - and can expect another opportunity for further progress in England’s second three-day warm-up fixture against South Australia in Adelaide, starting on Thursday.
A typically true and pacy Perth pitch made life difficult for all the bowlers, none more so than Swann.
His captain Andrew Strauss was nonetheless full of praise for him afterwards.
But true to type, Swann could not resist a shrug with his opening one-liner when asked whether he thinks Australia’s batsmen will have been taking note of his hard-earned success at the WACA.
“I don’t really give a monkey’s what the message is,” he said.
“The first two days, I couldn’t have felt worse. My back was stiff, I felt terrible. That just came from playing no cricket for six weeks.”
Sydney apart - and the last Test there is still almost two months away - there is little prospect of significant assistance for Swann on Australian pitches.
He knows the score, of course, and insists he will be happy to adapt his naturally attacking style and methods to bowl the spells his team need.
“I can’t see us playing on too many square turners. I’ll just have to be patient,” he predicted.
Warne is clearly an admirer of Swann’s, having played against him in county cricket before that return to the international fold in 2007.
But the off-spinner learned yesterday that not everyone is in awe of his talents, having been hit for 16 in one over yesterday by WA tailender Michael Hogan.
Responding to whether he thinks his wicket-taking exploits of the past two years have earned him a universal respect, he quipped: “I don’t think so ... that number 11 for WA kept pumping me for six.”
If there is one thing Swann himself respects, though, it is DRS - and the helping hand it has given him to finally reach his potential and even exceed it.
“I wasn’t a fan until I realised I could get 50 lbws that way,” he said.
While he is keen to benefit from replays in the Test series, Swann insists England are not paying too much attention on TV to Australia’s progress in other forms of the game.
The hosts arrested a run of seven straight losses with a comfortable victory over Sri Lanka yesterday, albeit in a dead rubber.
“These first three weeks of the tour are very important for our preparation and that alone,” he said. “Come a few days before that first Test in Brisbane then we’ll really focus on the Australian team.
“Of course, you can’t help but keep a side eye on what’s going on. You guys happily have lots of cricket on TV over here so we can watch it, but it’s not something as a group we get together and discuss already because we’ll build up to that when the time comes.”
When the Test series begins, on November 25, Swann is determined to improve on his displays in his previous Ashes.
Although the off-spinner claimed 14 wickets in the 2009 series, he went wicketless in two of the five contests.
“I’ve probably become a bit more consistent,” he believes. “Certainly, I don’t think I bowled particularly well throughout that last Ashes series.
“A couple of matches aside I was a little bit below par, probably just riding the wave, if you like, of the Ashes.”
Swann is aiming emulate his success in South Africa last winter, when he took 21 wickets in four Tests and was twice man of the match.
“This time round I’m looking forward to hopefully continuing the form I had in South Africa last year on very similar wickets where I bowled fairly well and was able to hold an end down and pick up a few scalps along the way,” he added.