Summer made for Swann
Graeme Swann feels like “summer’s finally arrived” with the npower Test series against India starting this week.
Swann and his England team-mates endured frequent rain interruptions during the Test and NatWest Series victories over Sri Lanka.
However, the off-spinner is relishing the arrival of India - the world’s number-one ranked Test team - for four Tests, one Twenty20 and five one-day internationals.
Indeed, the Test series against India, starting at Lord’s on Thursday, takes things up a notch, with the world number one status up for grabs - England must win by two Tests to take the mantle - as well as having the landmark 2,000th Test to celebrate.
“I’m looking forward to everything about it, it’s a huge game - it feels like the summer’s finally arrived,” Swann said.
“We’re playing against the number one team in the world and we’re striving to be number one. It’s the current number one against a team biting at their heels.
“But that has to take care of itself. We have to try to win each game as it comes and at the end of the series we’ll see where we are, hopefully having won 2-0 or 3-1 to get to number one in the world.”
Swann believes the tussle between England and India for the world number one spot is the next best thing to competing for the Ashes.
“The Australia series should be viewed as a separate entity and there is nothing for an Englishman or an Australian to rival the sheer size of that series. But this is as close as you’re going to get at the moment,” he said.
“Whether it will be tougher than Australia is hard to say; going to Australia and winning 3-1 there was probably the toughest series I’ve played in.”
Swann is hoping England can delay another landmark which is on the horizon, with India great Sachin Tendulkar having made 99 international centuries.
“I saw him get a hundred on TV before Sky Sports even started, so he’s phenomenal to still be going now and on the verge of his 100th hundred in international games,” Swann added.
“But hopefully he’ll have to wait six or seven months for that, because we don’t want him to get one in England.”
The arrival of India’s new coach Duncan Fletcher is also an interesting issue for Swann.
It affords him the opportunity to showcase at first hand the skills that have made him the top spinner in world cricket to a man who left him in international exile for seven years after an unimpressive maiden tour in 2000.
Yet Swann says there is no issue between him and the former England coach.
“A lot of people perceive me and Duncan to have an ill-tempered relationship. We don’t at all, we don’t have any relationship,” he said.
“When I was first picked I was nowhere near good enough and no matter who the coach was it wouldn’t have made a difference. I certainly don’t bear any grudges to Duncan whatsoever.”
With the five-day format reaching its notable anniversary and a World Test Championship planned for a 2013 conclusion, Swann is optimistic about the future.
“Test cricket is the best form of the game, the pure form of the game,” he said.
“Twenty20 has created a new audience; I’m not sure how long 50-over cricket is going to last but Test cricket will be around for another 100 years.
“England are in a privileged position, we have the best support in the world - certainly the best travelling support - so we don’t play too many of those games with only 100 people in the crowd.”
England are set to make a decision on the make-up of their XI on Thursday morning, with Tim Bresnan likely vying with Stuart Broad for a place in the side.
Bresnan, who excelled in the final two winter Ashes Tests before a torn calf kept him out of the Sri Lanka Tests, feels the competition for places - with Steven Finn not even in the 12-man squad - is a good sign for English cricket.
“It’s a great position for England to be in, with two guys who can do the job - and it’s not just two guys either, there is a very strong crop of seamers,” Bresnan said. “If there are injuries, we have people who can come in and do a job.”
On Broad’s search for top form, Bresnan was supportive of his team-mate, who was dropped from the one-day side for the series decider against Sri Lanka.
“He has bowled well. He’s bowled good spells and possibly not had the luck,” he added.
“You do need a lot of luck as a seam bowler sometimes and Stuart is a fantastic bowler, a fantastic cricketer. His record shows that and he deserves to be there.”