Swann ready for Test bow
Graeme Swann will wake up as a Test cricketer tomorrow having given up completely on his dream of playing five-day cricket for England after initially being called up to a squad nine years ago.
The 29-year-old Nottinghamshire off-spinner was named in England’s line-up for the opening Test against India in Chennai and will work in tandem with Monty Panesar, his former team-mate at Northamptonshire.
Swann’s debut is one of two changes England have made from their last Test outing against South Africa at the Oval last August, with Matt Prior also earning a recall as wicketkeeper by reclaiming the position from Tim Ambrose.
It is a major change in fortunes for Swann, who was exiled from England’s plans having fallen foul of Duncan Fletcher’s regime during the Millennium tour to South Africa when he overslept for the team coach during the final Test at Centurion.
He was not selected again until Peter Moores succeeded Fletcher as coach last year and recalled Swann for last winter’s one-day series in Sri Lanka, with his performances there earning him a place on the Test tour there last December.
“I’d written it off about nine and a half years ago after my first trip,” admitted Swann. “I didn’t think I’d get back in but I’ve worked very hard since moving to Nottinghamshire to get to this level and I’m happy that I’m here and delighted to be in the team.
“I think you have to (write it off) when you see everyone who has ever attempted to bowl spin in the world playing ahead of you, that’s when you think your number’s up - I had completely written it off, I didn’t expect to play for England in any form of the game again.
“It was great when I was called up for the one-dayers and then it was frustrating last year on the Test tour not to get a game in Sri Lanka but I knew if I had a half-decent year I had a chance to get out here, where I would more than likely get a game.”
Swann has proved he is one of the more outgoing cricketers on the international stage by singing in a rock band called Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations, which includes former Nottinghamshire spinner Andy Afford and Jim Hemmings, the son of former England spinner Eddie.
He has also begun a guitar club among the players, which includes James Anderson, but his fun-loving nature does not stop him providing a blunt assessment of his first tour as an England player when he admitted: “I wasn’t good enough at the time.
“I was 19 and I hadn’t bowled too many first-class overs so I wasn’t good enough for starters and it doesn’t help when you miss the bus when you’ve got a guy who’s pretty strict on discipline in charge. I made a rod for my own back - I’ve got no complaints.”
But now he can look forward to a debut in a country which has historically helped spinners, even though he will be facing an India batting line-up renowned for their ability against spin.
“If anything it’s probably more daunting making your debut back at home because the wickets don’t traditionally suit finger spinners there and spinners tend to have more say in the game over here,” he said. “I’m just looking forward to playing and I’d be a bit more nervous if it was back home on a flat belter at the Oval.
“You can’t give their batsmen much room because they can hit the ball a long way, they’re aggressive players and they’re all in good form.
“We’re just hoping that if we bowl anything like we can and try and restrict them in the first place and then chip away at wickets as you have to do over here then hopefully they won’t get too much chance to get after us.”
He added: “It’s a massive moment for me, but I tend to play all cricket with a smile on my face. There are obviously times when I get a bit angry when people nick it and don’t walk off but I’m going to enjoy it and soak it up.
“I’m not expecting the ground to be actually rammed here like the one-dayers but it would be nice if 50,000 people turned up to watch Sachin Tendulkar have a bat and they all went home after a couple of balls if he doesn’t get any.”