Swann eyes clean sweep
England are only three matches away from whitewashing India in every format this summer - a feat becoming of the “unbelievable cricket” they have played.
Alastair Cook’s team know much hard work still remains if they are to add a one-day international clean sweep to the 5-0 scoreline achieved over the npower Test series and one-off NatWest International Twenty20.
But as Graeme Swann explained on the eve of the third NatWest Series match at the Kia Oval, they are beginning to eye that possibility of beating India at every opportunity and in every version of the international game.
“I hope so,” said the off-spinner, at the prospect of converting a 1-0 lead so far into another unanswered drubbing.
“We’ve played some unbelievable cricket this summer - especially in the Test matches - and you don’t want the one-day series to be a damp squib at the end.”
It will be far from that if England can chalk up their first all-format clean sweep since Twenty20 became part of the international schedule.
Swann believes an impressive end to a highly-successful summer is important, however, not just in terms of pure statistics but to ensure England’s limited-overs specialists start to feel part of a winning team too.
“It was like that in 2009 [after the Ashes win when England lost the one-day series 6-1] - and although it didn’t take the polish off for any of the players, I’m sure it did for a few of the people watching.
“It’s important we carry on this momentum we’ve got going and for the guys who haven’t been involved in the Test matches that they can be part of a successful team as well - because we need all three forms of the game to be going in the right direction in the next two years.”
As for his own adaptability across the formats, England’s off-spinner for all occasions demonstrated his effectiveness again with three important wickets in their surprisingly easy victory at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday night.
Unlike a raft of his pace-bowling team-mates, he simply sticks to whatever he knows best - be it in a Test, Twenty20 or in between.
“I don’t have any silly tricks or trade secrets up my sleeve,” he said. “I just work on being as consistent as I can and having plans to get these guys out - and that doesn’t change.
“I am a bit long in the tooth to be trying new tricks. I’m happy with what I’ve got. All these new fads are just that - everyone goes back to doing the basics in the end.”
The ’carrom ball’, as purveyed by a new generation of international spinners, did make a fleeting appearance in the Swann repertoire.
“I can bowl one, but it’s just not very good,” he continued. “With my action it’s just the most obvious thing in the world. I got Mark Ramprakash out with one ... and then I put it away.”
It will be conventional off-breaks then, from the world’s number one slow bowler, with which India must contend in London and then in the series finale in Cardiff.
Swann is not expecting it to be easy, as England continue to have to adjust their gameplans against tourists barely recognisable - thanks to tour-ending injuries for eight players - from the Test and 50-over world-beaters who arrived in this country two months ago.
“We’ve been provided with new challenges because of their high turnover of players, so it doesn’t feel like the same team we played against three or four weeks ago,” he explained.
“With that, it feels like we’re still learning about the opposition. So I wouldn’t say we go in thinking ’We’re going to trounce this lot today’; we go in really thinking there’s a game on our hands each time.”
Among those most likely to give England a game is rising star Ajinkya Rahane. He has made two half-centuries in just three attempts at the top of the order, since replacing the injured Virender Sehwag.
Rahane and his team-mates have made the most of a short break between matches too, with a sightseeing tour of the capital and VIP visit to Westminster.
“Visiting Big Ben and the House of Commons was a wonderful experience, which everyone enjoyed,” said the 23-year-old.
“We’re trying hard and will give it our best shot in these three matches. (Captain Mahendra Singh) Dhoni has kept the team spirit very high.”
India are likely to accommodate newly available all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja in their team tomorrow, probably at the expense of Manoj Tiwary.