Stand by every word I said. Greatest post-Warne spinner, and will be a huge miss for England.Graeme Swann
Completing the XI and my spin bowling attack is Graeme Swann. In an era of mystery spinners/baseball pitchers, it’s refreshing to see that the best exponent of the art of spin bowling is an orthodox offie. Like the latter-career Warne, Swann’s box of tricks is fairly limited; there’s the off-break, the big turning off-break and the “lol, you thought that was turning, guess what, you’re lbw” straight ball. The latter has proven particularly effective to left handers of all nationalities. Swann’s hold over Australia’s left handers is approaching Warne over England levels, and he averages something stupid like 5 against Pakistan’s left handers. Ok, right-handers get a slightly easier ride against Swann, but he’s not perfect. If he was, he’d be...Shane Warne.
What makes Swann great is that he’s great value on and off the field. On it, he’s a demon off-spinner (as already discussed), a nuisance batsman (although I will always maintain he’s underachieved as a batsman, although I’m perhaps judging him by his ICC 2005 career) and a good slipper. He’s a brilliant all-round cricketer to have in your side. Not only that, but he’s great in the dressing room and in the media, as his Ashes Diaries from 2010/11 will attest to. And in the media he’s about the only bloke in the game currently who successfully manages to not be a slick, well drilled in PR, cliché-spouting clone, without going too far the other way and coming off as a complete ****. That takes talent.
Why else does Swann get in this team? Well, the highest compliment I can pay him is that he’s probably the closest thing cricket has to a replacement for Shane Warne. No-one will ever replace Warne as a cricketer, but there’s a lot of similarities between the two in what they bring to a side (bowling, batting and slip catching) and just as every Warne delivery was an event, Swann is one of the few cricketers who carries that “oooh, better keep watching, something’s going to happen” aura around him – at least he does when there’s a leftie at the crease. Like I said, nobody’s perfect. Maybe he’s the poor man’s Warne...but I’ll quite happily take that.