Graeme Swann has decided to call time on his international career with immediate effect – during a series where England have been battered by Australia.
For the first three tests, England have been outplayed in all departments and Swann, so often England’s best bowler, has been smashed around the park.
Swann has been without doubt the best England spinner for years but his decision to quit with two Ashes tests remaining has caused surprise.
This is a time where England need every player to stand up and be counted.
Seeking their fourth successive Ashes victory, this is an England team that is used to winning.
Now that they have been knocked off that pedestal down under, England need to dig deep in Melbourne and Sydney and salvage some pride. Instead, Swann has decided to abandon ship, which will cast a shadow over his marvellous seven years as an England player.
Having already lost key man Jonathan Trott to a ‘stress-related illness’ this series, England need their key men to show the strength of their backs and produce.
It is no surprise that Australia have dominated this series and that is not something England should feel ashamed about.
The Aussies are the better team at the moment and England will just have to accept that and grab what they can out of the series.
Swann has made out that his decision to quit is a selfless act, done to allow another player to step in and get some playing time.
Actually this is an act of a man who is desperately out of form and has made the decision that he can’t stomach another beating in Melbourne and has walked.
Given the impact and influence of Swann on England on the last seven years, both on and off the field, this is a disappointing end.
Swann should have stuck it out until the end of this series, for the good of the team and helped England to show a strength and resolve to take something out of this disastrous Ashes campaign.
Whether he would have been selected for Melbourne is another issue, but to walk away from your teammates at this time of crisis is not the way to go.
Rather than showing a unity at a time of conflict, this is a wonderful England team that is slowly disintegrating. Matt Prior, so reliable for England, is so out of form and likely to be dropped – maybe never to return. Kevin Pietersen looks a shadow of his former self and questions will be asked about his future as a test player after this series. Even coach Andy Flower looks set to leave his post.
This leaves England scrabbling around for replacements to move forward with and in truth it looks a bit bleak.
If Jonny Bairstow is the best wicket-keeper batsman England can muster then they are in trouble.
Swann’s replacement short-term will be Monty Panesar and long-term probably Simon Kerrigan, but there are question marks over both of them.
It looks as though England have potentially come to the end of a brilliant cycle – going back arguably as far as the 2005 Ashes series.
Since then the team have had such a lot of success in Test cricket and they are still a very good team.
However, captain Alastair Cook will need to oversee some major changes in the team and try to continue that success with some new personnel over the coming months and years.
Swann will be a huge loss. His career for England has been spell-binding and he has been the catalyst for so much of what England have done well.
As a spinner he has single-handedly won matches for England and as a character he has entertained and amused – something which will surely see him move into broadcasting.
However, his decision to walk-out in the midst of battle is a sad end to a glittering international career.
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