Graeme Swann’s transformation from international outsider to England’s primary match-winner and undisputed best spin bowler in the world has been remarkably rapid. Within two years of his 2008 Test debut, he had become his country’s most reliable bowler, made the shortlist for the ICC’s cricketer of the year award and claimed an Ashes-sealing wicket. Yet the script took many twists and turns along the way.
Drafted into the squad for the full tour of South Africa in 1999-2000. Swann’s meteoric received a jolt. While some liked the cut of his jib, others did not and England coach Duncan Fletcher already had a foot in the latter camp when Swann missed the bus for the first of two times on that tour. Suddenly he was judged on temperament and not talent.
Although Swann candidly concedes he was nowhere near good enough for the top level at that stage in his career, his jettisoning back to county cricket for the next seven years, following a solitary one-day international, hinted at a career wasted. A clash with then Northamptonshire coach Kepler Wessels triggered his move to Nottinghamshire in 2005. A County Championship winner in his debut season, he was back in the England fold at the end of his third.
Forever a flamboyant showman, he made up for lost time with two wickets in his first over against India – his habit of striking in his opening over a spell has become a party piece. You cannot keep the spotlight off him for long. Since moving into the top 10 of the world rankings for bowlers on the back of eight wickets in the Ashes-defining Oval Test of 2009, he has not dropped outside it, and has been widely tipped to be the decisive factor in the defence of the urn in Australia.