Melbourne: Touted as the best spinner in world cricket currently, England off-spinner Graeme Swann is not letting the accolades to go to his head, and has firmly set his sights on securing the coveted Ashes urn for his team.
Though thousands are willing to pay to see him perform, and sponsors are hanging on his every word, Swann is thinking things through before deciding on the correct words to inform the eve-of-Ashes charity audience what he is looking forward to most about his first tour Down Under.
According to a newspaper, team officials and management have spent months trying to make sure no one says a single word that can be construed as confidence let alone arrogance in advance of the mission to retain the Ashes in Australia for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century.
‘Well,’ began the best spinner in world cricket, ‘the thing is I’ll almost certainly be p****d from Perth onwards because we’ll have won the Ashes by then.’
Victory would secure ownership of the urn for another three years at least, a place in English cricket history as the first to win here in the current millennium and the status among even the most one-eyed Australians as The Poms Who Won.
If Swann bowls in Perth as he did when taking 5-91 in Australia’s second innings to spin England to victory at the Adelaide Oval, they will need to close the bars from next week until New Year while he lives up to that tongue-in-cheek promise.
He will also almost certainly have established himself as the ICC No 1 ranked bowler in world cricket, with Steve Harmison the only other Englishman to do so in three decades.
Two years on from making his Test debut against India in Chennai — and with 60 Test scalps this year to add to the 62 in the first 13 months of his career at this level — it hardly seemed necessary to ask which of these possible achievements would offer him the greatest satisfaction.
“To be perfectly honest,’ said a smiling Swann, ‘I’ve never taken the slightest notice of records or statistics or rankings. People tell me I’m ranked two in the ICC World rankings and that I could be the No 1 if this or that happens, and I just say “thanks for telling me”.
“Two years ago, I wasn’t playing Test cricket, and didn’t exactly feel close to the team. I was a very happy, jovial tourist, but just that. So, it’s nice that I got the chance in the first place and that I’ve managed to grab the opportunity,” he adds.
“But, and I know this is going to sound like a cliché, I really couldn’t give a monkey’s about being No 1 in the world if we don’t win the Ashes. If we do win I don’t care if I drop down to No 20,” he said.