Cricket has seen innumerable exceptionally talented men fall by the wayside. Basit Ali, Vinod Kambli, and coming to Englishmen, Mark Ramprakash and Graeme Hick among others.
Each story of failure had a diverse raison d’être – Ali found fame too tough to handle, Kambli took it very lightly, while Ramprakash and Hick did not have the mental aptitude to deal with high-voltage pressure.
The last mentioned’s namesake – Graeme Swann – seemed destined to join the growing list until 2009 changed it all. With 99 wickets in 45 matches, combining all three versions of the game, Swann has scripted a turnaround of magnanimous proportions.
The off spinner, who has deservedly been chosen ECB’s cricketer of the year, is worthy of all the plaudits. In today’s cut-throat scenario, it is next to impossible to make an international comeback once you have crossed 30.
Self-admittedly, Swann himself had given up hope of representing England after being unceremoniously dropped on disciplinary grounds, as a 20-year-old in South Africa in 1999/2000. He was lucky to get that rare second chance. But boy, has he taken some advantage of it.
Not only did he help fashion England’s second Ashes triumph in four years, he was also the mainstay of the bowling attack during England’s unexpected, glorious triumph in West Indies during the just-concluded T20 World Cup. And, he has done wonders not only with the ball, but also contributed significantly with the willow on numerous occasions.
The most striking aspect of Swann’s performance with the ball over the last year has been his attacking modus operandi, which reiterated that the cricketing cliché, attack is the best form of defense, still holds true.
Even as spinners the world over are preferring to stop the batsmen from scoring runs rather than going for the wickets, a confidence-personified Swann has been prepared to toss the ball in the air, and has reaped rich rewards for it, not least of all sowing the seeds of doubt in the batsmen’s mind every time he comes on to bowl.
At the same time, Swann hasn’t proved expensive is any form of the game. This deadly mix is a rarest of rare combination, and can only be achieved by a special talent. Swann has done more than enough to illustrate that he is one.
During his younger days, the offie was considered a genuine future prospect, but lacked the maturity to identify his own gift. Some talents bloom late, but when they do, their radiance encapsulates all. Same has been the case with Swann. Even since his comeback, he has performed like a man possessed, but always with a smile on his face.
The enjoyment writ large on his face has doubled his success. When you are glad with what you are doing, the chances of you doing well are that much better. Having said that, the difference between that 20-year-old rookie and this 31-year-old performing great feats, is the detection the fine balance between not taking things too seriously and, at the same time, always giving your best.
Having said that, it would be criminally unfair not to credit Swann’s fighter-like attitude for his magnificent second coming. While he has been exceptional with the ball, the challenging circumstances under which some of his recent knocks have come, were reminiscent of the ones Steve ‘Tugga’ Waugh played for Australia.
A compliment too big for Swann too early, but befitting considering the contribution he has made to English cricket in just over a year; for not only has Swann’s approach breathed fresh life into England’s cricket, it has ushered a new era in the history of the nation’s cricket.
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