WHO WILL GET YOUR VOTE? England’s cricketers have had an outstanding 12 months, winning six series in all forms of the game, including the World Twenty20. Key to that success has been the world’s top spin bowler, Graeme Swann.
IAN COLE says Swann should get your vote as the SJA Sportsman of the Year
Need a wicket? Send for Swann.
That has been the rallying call of the England cricket team as Andrew Strauss’s men clocked up six series wins in a year which, for off-the-field reasons, was one to forget.
The team’s shining light has been off-spinner Graeme Swann, who ended the summer in the exalted position of world’s No1 spinner and on the shortlist for the coveted title of ICC Player of the Year.
Not bad for someone who was discarded a decade ago, supposedly temperamentally unsuited for the all-year demands of international cricket.
Swann has had a quite phenomenal year. The statistics are compelling. In 10 Test matches he collected 51 wickets, including five five-fors. In Chittagong in March he bowled England to victory over Bangladesh, becoming the first English off-spinner since Jim Laker in 1956 to take 10 wickets in a Test.
He also claimed 28 wickets in the three one-day series that accompanied those Tests and played a starring role with 10 wickets as England, under Paul Collingwood’s captaincy, won the World Twenty20 in the Caribbean – the first global trophy won by the national team.
At Edgbaston in August, Swann took a Test-best 6-65 against Pakistan, following up with match figures of 7-118 at The Oval and 9-74 at Lord’s.
What those statistics don’t show, however, is Swann’s remarkable ability to strike with a wicket in the first over of a spell. In all forms of the game, Swann has performed the feat 25 times since making his Test debut in 2008. His name will surely cause Ricky Ponting’s Australians a sleepless night or two in the coming weeks.
At 31, Swann’s Test career has arrived too late to challenge that trio in terms of wickets taken. Which makes it all the more galling to recall that he first toured with England in 1999, a trip to South Africa in which he grew restless in a drinks waiter role and fell out of favour with the management when he overslept and missed the team bus.
Swann’s rapid rise to the top of the world tree has coincided with the recent retirement of Shane Warne and Anil Kumble, followed this year by the departure of Sri Lanka wizard Muttiah Muralitharan, the world’s highest wicket-taker.
More than a decade on Swann, Northampton raised but now with Nottinghamshire, has grown up but is still regarded as the joker in England’s dressing room. On the field, however, he is a deadly serious competitor. His wickets have come without any frills. There are no quirks to his action, no doosras or flippers, just basic off-spin performed brilliantly with an occasional arm ball thrown in for variety.
He thrives most against left-handers and there has been no sweeter sight this summer than the ball which pitches middle and spins away to hit the top of the left-hander’s off stump.
Swann will be Down Under on Ashes duty when our SJA British Sports Awards lunch takes place – but that’s not a reason to deny him your vote. For pure cricketing excellence over a sustained period, Graeme Swann deserves to be the SJA’s Sportsman of the Year for 2010.
Who is worthy of your vote? Check out our experts’ views here:
Voting for the SJA’s annual British Sports Awards is now open. Only SJA members may vote, and they are allowed to vote only once, when they must choose their top three choices for Sportsman, Sportswoman and Team of the Year.
Voting forms are being posted to members with the SJA Bulletin autumn edition, or you may vote online.