Swann Gives England Character
By Ben Dirs
One of the more irritating aspects of Australia’s dominance over England in the 1990s and much of the 2000s was the fact that, as well as being superior cricketers, the Aussies rather dwarfed their arch rivals in the personality stakes.
There was Matthew Hayden with his recipe books and charity work, Justin Langer with his black belt in Zen Do Kai, self-help books and charity work, Steve Waugh with his photography books and charity work – and then there was Shane Warne, who did plenty of charity work between producing a few dozen books-worth of off-field controversy.
Then, when they’d had their fill of thrashing the old enemy, they’d turn up periodically on BBC’s Test Match Special and reveal that, contrary to what most Englishmen thought, they were actually rather convivial chaps and, most irritatingly of all, thoroughly good blokes.
The importance of personality – or charisma, or substance, or whatever you want to call it – occurred to me when I asked Phil Tufnell what it was that made Graeme Swann, who took his 100th Test wicket on day two of the third Test against Pakistan on Thursday, so special.
“He takes wickets, he takes catches, he smacks it around down the order,” said Tufnell, becoming ever more animated, before adding: “And he brings character.” Tufnell as a player was proof of that old adage, made famous by ‘The Wolf’ in Pulp Fiction, that “just because you are a character doesn’t mean you have character.” A fine performer on his day, the Australians, fans included, knew that, where ‘The Cat’ was concerned, a spot of ‘mental disintegration’ could go a long way.
But Swann, who reached his latest milestone in 23 Tests – the same as Warne and Glenn McGrath and ‘Deadly’ Derek Underwood, perhaps England’s greatest modern-day spinner – has blossomed into one of those players who is able to bring his off-field spirit onto the field of play.
Lead singer of a covers band, Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations (available for weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvahs in the Nottinghamshire area), Swann is also an engaging interviewee with a nice line in repartee – witness his put-down of team-mate Kevin Pietersen in a recent Twitter exchange: “Such a shame my teammates are so remedial in their ‘banter’. Must be because they’re all South African.”
Graeme Swann is not one to hide his emotions.
Personality – or charisma, or substance, or whatever you want to call it – has been sorely lacking from many of England’s players on Ashes tours since England last won down under in 1986-87 and to that end Swann will be a key figure this winter.