Cup quest eases Swann baby burden
Graeme Swann admits the prospect of winning the World Cup helped soften the “gut-wrenching” blow of saying goodbye to his two-day-old son.
Swann last week became a father for the first time when wife Sarah gave birth to Wilfred, but within 48 hours he was flying out to India to join the England squad as they put the finishing touches to their World Cup preparations.
Despite his belated arrival in Nagpur, Swann played - and impressed, with figures of 2-35 from 10 overs - in England’s occasionally tense six-wicket win over the Netherlands yesterday in their first competitive fixture.
“Within two days of the little fella coming into the world, I’m saying a teary goodbye,” said Swann, 31. “He doesn’t know what’s going on but I do, but that’s our lot as international cricketers.
“It’s a bit of a whirlwind. As any new parent will testify, jet-lag is something that is not just confined to flying on aeroplanes, because once you’ve got a baby you keep strange hours.”
The irrepressible Swann is never more than a few seconds away from his next gag, and, true to type, he added: “On the plus side, I get to come here to play in a World Cup.
“In 18 years’ time when he is giving me grief for not being there for the first six weeks, I’ll be able to say, ‘But I had to go and beat Holland’.”
Swann can expect to play a leading role in England’s next Group B clash in Bangalore on Sunday, against tournament favourites and co-hosts India, 87-run victors over Bangladesh in the opening match of the tournament.
India will not be wanting for support at the M Chinnaswamy Stadium, but Swann and company are keen to silence the famously raucous fans - and go some way to avenging their 5-0 one-day series defeat in India in 2008, which was cut short by the Mumbai terrorist attacks.
“The fact it’s against India in India is going to make it a huge game,” Swann predicted. “We had a very poor time of things in the one-day series here a couple of years ago.
“That’s certainly something we want to turn around because there is nothing better than silencing an Indian crowd. You don’t want them to be screaming all day because it's ear-shattering.
Swann is relishing the status his sport commands in this country of cricket fanatics. While there still one or two places he would rather be, he acknowledges India is a unique and unmissable experience.
He added: “India will never be the new home of cricket - because there is always Trent Bridge! But it’s like a religion over here.
“The atmosphere you get, particularly when the home nation is playing, is something special that you remember.
“For an Englishman in India, it will always be right up there. It certainly wouldn’t top playing at Lord’s or Sydney, but it’s pretty close.”
To maintain their winning start to the competition, Swann admits England must improve vastly on their performance against the Netherlands, particularly in the field, where he likened them to “a bunch of schoolboys”.
He also knows he faces the challenge of adapting to conditions which could not be more different from Nottingham in winter.
“The change of climate and temperature really does hit you hard,” he said. “After 20 overs I looked up at the board desperate for it to be 45 overs gone because I was absolutely cooked.
“That three and a half hours felt like three and a half months fielding. I kept looking at the board praying the overs would tick over quicker than they did - but as everyone knows, when you want something to go quicker it never does.”
There is also the small matter of stopping Virender Sehwag, whose 175 against Bangladesh served as a graphic illustration of the devastating potential of an India batting order that also features Sachin Tendulkar, Vuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Asked about Sehwag’s punishing strokeplay, Swann said: “We’ve got our gameplans and we know how we’re going to bowl at him, but I’m not going to tell the press and give him a heads-up.
“We’ll just have to get him out in the first couple of overs, and there’s no problem - same as anyone.”