I noticed a comment in someone's sig here (can't remember whose) quoting Nasser Hussain in saying words to that effect of "If Swann is the future of spin in this country, we're..." and so it carried on. That quote was dated 1997, roughly 15 years ago - and it prompted a line of thought.
Swann in his early career was more of a raw talent. His powerful hitting and sometimes sharpish turn caught the eye, and saw him fast-tracked to be in and around the national team around 1999-2000. However after a few years, it didn't seem like he was ever going to realise his inherent potential.
In a nation with stronger spin stocks, he might well have fallen off the radar altogether; however, with a dearth of quality spinners in England at the time, Swann was granted vast oppurtunities - remaining in the Championship, all the while building his armoury and experience.
The second part of his career - starting around the time of the move to Notts and their '05 CC win, through until the present, showed us a markedly different side of Swann. His game these days is far more effective, and he wins many battles with his thinking alone. He does not rely on raw skill so much as he does strategy and nous. Far from taking away from Swann, though, I believe this is just as important a trait for a bowler, and particularly a spinner.
Which made me wonder thusly - if Swann has prolonged (and effectively re-birthed) his career by becoming more of an experienced and thinking player; and he was given generous oppurtunity to develop those attributes, given the natural lack of spinners in England - would he have come so far in his development as a cricketer, were he from another country? Would he have come further, or disappeared altogether?
I suppose in a smaller cricketing nation, even more deficient in spinners (ie. Windies) he may have had even more chances - but then the case could be made that he would have been over-exposed too young, and never had the oppurtunity to go back and develop a more complete game.
Conversely, had he been in for example Australia behind Warne, MacGill et al - he may well have already dropped off the radar given lack of oppourtunity, and blown the chance of such a re-creation.
Throwing it out there - I think England has turned out to be the perfect country for Swann's development - and although granted the obvious benefit of hindsight, you couldn't really plan a career any better to develop a really well rounder character and cricketer - technically and mentally.
Might be an interesting excercise with other players too - don't know if the question has been asked too often before, please excuse if you have been over this already.