DateLine: 20th December 2005
With still just one ODI appearance under his belt, there is still a chance that Graeme Swann could have an extremely obscure international career. This would be a shame, as he is a talented cricketer with both bat and ball. With two very good county seasons with Northamptonshire and a great A tour to South Africa and Zimbabwe under his belt, Swann was picked as the second spinner (behind Ashley Giles) on the Millennium tour to South Africa. He had earlier been an unused squad member for the last New Zealand Test of the 1999 English summer, and he was one of a number of fresh faces in the touring party who hadnít been sullied by the home loss to the Kiwis. In his two provincial matches he failed to impress, and his single ODI at Bloemfontein was granted after Ashley Giles was ruled out with injury. He bowled tidily enough (and generated significant turn), in recording figures of 0-24 off 5 overs, and wasnít required to bat as England easily beat the host nation. However, during the tour, his missing of an early morning bus failed to please Duncan Fletcher, and various reports had it that Swann had not impressed with his attitude and behaviour. His post-tour interviews, where he spoke about himself in the third person were also unlikely to have impressed the always phlegmatic Fletcher. Despite a decent Busta Cup campaign with England A the following winter, and some time spent at the National Academy, Swann was not seen around the senior squad until May 2005 he was one of the less predictable names in the 25 man England Development Squad. 2005 had also seen Swann join Nottinghamshire, where he was a virtual ever present in the team which won the Championship. However, with Notts boasting a strong squad of seamers, Swann rarely found a turning pitch, and he was relegated to a supporting role, which didnít sit completely at ease with his generally aggressive bowling. Although a regular opener in limited-overs cricket, Swann could bat higher than his traditional no.8 in the Championship. It did say something positive about Swann though that he was prepared to leave the comfort zone of the inevitably dry Northampton pitches for pastures new. Always a sparky character, in 2002 he launched a public verbal attack on Dominic Cork in the middle of a match against him. Although Swann had dismissed him for a first ball duck in the Derbyshire first innings, his words came back to haunt him as Cork (himself no stranger to bravado and conflict) proceeded to deposit his deliveries all around Wantage Road. Such a fiery temperament may or may not be an advantage at Test level, although the fact that both 36 year old Shaun Udal, and the inexperienced Alex Loudon (both of whom have a doosra or wrong-un in their arsenal, and neither of whom were in the 25 man Development Squad) were picked ahead of him for the Pakistan tour shows that he still has some way to travel before he wears the three lions again. His elder brother Alec also played for Northamptonshire as well as Lancashire, and their father Raymond played in the First round of the Natwest Trophy for the Northamptonshire Cricket Board in 1999, the same season that his sons made their debut for Northamptonshire in this competition.
(Article: Copyright © 2005 Matthew Reed)