Sydney: Graeme Swann`s happy-go-lucky nature belied his status as one of England`s greatest spin bowlers and a talisman of the team`s three successive Ashes series successes.
Swann shocked the cricket world on Sunday by announcing his immediate retirement mid-way through the already doomed series with Australia, sending social media into a twitter over the timing. The 34-year-old off-spinner always was one of a kind: an eccentric and a dressing-room joker but also a match-winner in his own right. Swann claimed 255 wickets in 60 Tests in just five years and is sixth on the all-time list of Test wicket-takers for England. England won half the Tests in which he played.
He effectively spearheaded England to Ashes victory over the Australians in the previous series earlier this year with his haul of 26 wickets.
But Swann, troubled by a chronic elbow condition, knew his time was up on the unresponsive Australian pitches as Michael Clarke`s team made him work hard for little reward. He had been under pressure to retain his place in the squad after taking just seven wickets at an average of 80.00 in the first three Tests in Australia.
Swann always played cricket with a smile and was a much-loved figure within the English team. He triggered an Internet sensation by highlighting the England players` victory jig known as "The Sprinkler" during the 2010/11 Ashes series victory in Australia on his web diary. Thousands of clips were posted on the web.
But he also ran into trouble occasionally. Last week he was forced to apologise for what he called a "crass and offensive" comment after he compared the third Ashes Test loss to Australia to being "raped". The comment, made in a Facebook exchange with his brother and picked up by British newspapers, prompted upset on social media and from rape charities.
Swann leaves cricket with a reputation as a master spinner, praised for his role in reviving the art of off-spin bowling. He was rated by some as England`s finest finger-spinner, alongside Jim Laker. He claimed 17 five-wicket hauls in Tests and three times took 10 wickets in a match. Swann was Test cricket`s top wicket-taker since his December 2008 debut with his tally accumulated in just five years, ahead of teammates Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad as well as South African Dale Steyn and Australian Peter Siddle.
He was potent when bowling to left-handers -- he claimed the most wickets of left-handers for England with 119 dismissals. He marked his debut with two wickets in his first over against India, and within a few months had usurped Monty Panesar as England`s premier spinner, a position he would not relinquish until his shock announcement on Sunday.
Now Panesar is in line to resume as England`s lead spinner in this week`s Boxing Day Test against Australia in Melbourne. Former England skipper Michael Vaughan said on Twitter he believed it was "too soon" for Swann to call it a day, describing him as "finger spin out of the top drawer".
"Of all the England players over the last 20 yrs he is the one the team (will) miss the most .. Spinners of his quality are a rare breed..." Vaughan tweeted.
"He has also been a brilliant character who plays the game how it should be played .. With a energy of fun and humour.. #OldSchool".