Feisty Swann in knockout mode
Graeme Swann is aiming to silence England’s critics as he prepares for what he is treating as the first match of the knockout phase.
Defeat to West Indies on Thursday will spell the end of England’s World Cup challenge, while victory would - barring a sequence of results elsewhere going against them - secure their place in the quarter-finals.
England’s inconsistencies in this competition have been well documented, with praise for the manner in which they tied against India and beat South Africa countered by criticism of their performances in losing to Ireland and, most recently, Bangladesh.
While admitting he and has colleagues have “played like melons” at times, Swann is nonetheless choosing to look forward rather than back.
“There’s no point dwelling on the two games we’ve lost - that we should have won from the situation we got ourselves in,” said the off-spinner.
“We just need to win four big games now, and then go home victorious. It’s four games, and we could take home the spoils and shut a few people up who’ve been knocking us.
“We’ve still got the same players in this team who’ve done such good things over the last two years. We know going into any game that if we play well we can beat anybody.
“We’ve proven that in the games we’ve played well in, in this tournament. It’s just that in other games, we’ve played like melons.”
Victory over West Indies is no guarantee of qualification. Assuming South Africa beat Ireland tomorrow, England could miss out on net run-rate if Bangladesh beat South Africa in their last game and West Indies upset India.
“The fact that your fate may lie in others’ results is very frustrating,” Swann added. “But you get yourself in that position.
“Had we scored one more run against India, had we not thrown away winning positions in other games, we wouldn’t be in this situation, which would be preferable.
“Being England cricketers, we’ve been fairly used over the years to having fairly fluctuating fortunes on the field. It’s nothing new for us, but it’s something we’re not happy about.”
Swann’s frustration as England slipped to a two-wicket defeat against Bangladesh in Chittagong last Friday boiled over into audible bad language when he was unable to grip a ball drenched in dew.
He was fined 10% of his match fee, having immediately apologised to umpire Daryl Harper, and accepts he is “a bit ashamed about my own behaviour”.
However, he queries whether matches should be played in conditions that do not provide a level playing field for everyone’s skills.
“Playing at a ground with a lot of dew, people say ‘that’s cricket - you should get on with it’. But you shouldn’t have to get on with it; that shouldn’t be a part of the game.
“If you’re completely taking out of the game a facet such as spin bowling, personally I don’t see the point of playing day-night cricket in a dew area.”
As for potential conditions at the MA Chidambaram Stadium against West Indies, Swann is hoping for a repeat of the dry, dusty surface on which England edged a thrilling six-run win over South Africa.
“I loved bowling on that. If I could roll it up and take it around the world with me, I happily would,” he said. “I think we’d be crazy if the wicket is like that not to play two spinners.”
Swann, like many of his colleagues, is approaching the end of a challenging winter away, but he refuses to present England’s busy schedule - or the loss of Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad from their World Cup squad - as an excuse for their patchy showing in the sub-continent.
“I don’t think it’s the loss of individual players,” he said. “We’re just not managing to put both facets of our game together at the minute.
“That’s something we nailed down pretty well in the Test match arena over the last 18 months. In one-dayers, we’re still searching for that magical elixir.
“No doubt there are a few fatigued bodies around the camp. But most of the other teams have shared the ludicrous schedule we do, so we can’t say that we’re being singled out.
“It’s just the way it falls. The World Cup is always after the toughest winter for us. But it’s no excuse. It certainly isn’t the reason we’re not playing well, because we’re all fit.
“There’s no point whingeing or moaning about anything. The light is at the end of the tunnel: win that World Cup and then get three or four days in your own bed before the English season starts again.”