England spinner Swann retires in middle of Ashes

AFP, MELBOURNE, Australia

Mon, Dec 23, 2013 - Page 20

England spinner Graeme Swann yesterday announced his retirement from international and first-class cricket with immediate effect, dropping a bombshell just days before the beleaguered tourists meet Australia in their fourth Ashes Test.

Swann, who took 255 wickets in 60 Tests over five years and is sixth on the list of Test wicket-takers for England, said his squad’s surrendering of the Ashes to Australia in Perth last week had cemented his decision to call it a day.

His abrupt announcement further unsettles England, who trail 3-0 in the series after three heavy defeats and are battling to avoid a humiliating 5-0 series whitewash.

“I know I’m making a decision for the right reasons. I made the decision after the Perth Test. It was probably halfway through that Perth game, to be honest,” Swann, 34, said at a press conference in Melbourne.

“My body doesn’t like playing long forms of cricket, my arm doesn’t cope with bowling 30 to 40 overs in the first innings and then repeating it in the second innings a day later,” he added. “I could feel my performances tapering off to the back-end of games and I wasn’t happy with that.”

The off-spinner, a jovial and popular character among his team, has been under pressure to keep his place in the squad after taking just seven wickets at an average of 80 in the three Tests in Australia.

Swann, a key member of the side that won the previous three Ashes series, will miss the fourth Test starting in Melbourne on Thursday and the final Test in Sydney, with fellow spinner Monty Panesar likely to take his place.

Swann’s withdrawal means further disruption for England following the departure of batsman Jonathan Trott earlier in the tour with a stress-related illness.

“With two games to go in Australia and then a fiercely competitive summer against Sri Lanka and India, I feel that it is a great time for someone else to strap themselves in and hopefully enjoy the ride as much as I have,” Swann said, adding that: “It was very difficult decision. This England team has been my family for the best part of a decade now and you spend so much time with guys you absolutely love to pieces.”

Swann said that in hindsight, he could have retired after the previous Ashes series in England earlier this year.

“Why didn’t I stop then? I knew more or less that the time was coming up,” he said. “But I’d never forgive myself — we had the chance to potentially come out here and win four Ashes series on the bounce.”

Swann, who made his Test debut in 2008 and averaged 29.96 with the ball, said his decision had nothing to do with uproar over comments he made on Facebook last week likening the third Ashes Test loss to being “raped.”

“It was unfortunate that someone chose to trawl through my brother’s Facebook page. I did apologize for that and it had nothing to do with it,” Swann said.

England director Andy Flower said Swann had played a major role in the squad’s recent success.

“The dressing room will be a very different place without Graeme’s unique personality and I would like to wish him all the very best for the future,” Flower said in a statement.