Swann didn’t retire, he quit

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Would Englands Graeme Swann announced his retirement had England been leading the Ashes series 3-0 and not trailing? Photo by Ryan Pierse

Which British male would not trade an arm, a leg, or infinitely more sensitive anatomical parts, for the chance to win just one international cap in anything from tiddlywinks to crown green bowls?

That is just one of the reasons why Graeme Swann’s decision hto quit England in the middle of the Ashes is terribly depressing. He has treated the privilege of a lifetime as a commodity that can be discarded at will, chucked in when the going gets tough.

But over and above the emotional pull of playing cricket for one’s country, there is also the question of responsibility.

This is not the age of Gentlemen and Players, when the amateur had to weigh up whether he could afford a long tour Down Under or whether instead he would, say, have to spend the winter months conveyancing at a local solicitors’ practice.

No, Swann was in the top tier of earners among the centrally contracted group of elite players, receiving about £300,000 a year under the terms he agreed just three months ago.

He was, therefore, obliged by the paper he signed to see the series through.Even though he was being flayed for a heap of runs, although his body and especially his elbow were feeling the years, and despite the possibility he was expecting to be dropped, he should have made himself available to his country.

He could then have announced his retirement at the close of the series, as many expected, and gone out with the hosannas warranted by his record as the sixth highest wicket-taker in England history, an Ashes hero.

How can his decision to go now be seen as anything other than opportunistic and indulgent?

Does anyone seriously think he would have quit yesterday — I intentionally use the word quit rather than retired — had England been leading 3-0 rather thantrailing by the same margin? Would he have gone at this juncture had the pitches helped a finger spinner or the Australians not targeted him?

No, he would have been the life and soul of the touring party, happy to play on, indulging in banter with ‘Belly’ and ‘Broady’ and ‘Stokesy’, to use the nomenclature that tells us something about a team long on cheap mateyness and short on significant fibre.‘

A rat deserting a sinking ship,’ was the succinct verdict of one of our Mail Online readers.The most revealing sentence in his retirement speech: ‘So now, with the series beyond our reach, I have just brought forward the decision by a couple of matches.’

To hell with fighting against the prospect of a whitewash, old boy.In fact, the manner of Swann’s departure tells us everything about this England team, a side who have too little respect for the country they represent, the opposition they play against and the traditions of the old game itself.

We suspected it when some of them urinated on The Oval pitch at the end of the last series and we hear it in their glorification of ‘winning ugly’, as if that aim is a cricketer’s highest calling.

Why not aspire to win gracefully and, if necessary, to lose magnanimously? There has been a growing chippiness about them, and Alastair Cook, a patently decent man but not a natural leader, could not rid the air of smug complacency from the dressing room.

We half-detected these traits last summer but now, following their poor performances in Australia, we see them for what they truly are: happy to sledge but, when faced with real — and legitimate — aggression in the form of Mitchell Johnson, squealers who hop from foot to foot (‘Broady’).

With Swann’s selfish surrender, the Australians must be laughing at how they have dismantled England brick by brick.One suspects the bloated retinue of helpers, meddlers, coaches, physiotherapists, psychologists and dieticians have robbed individual cricketers of the opportunity and need to think for themselves.

The players have everything on tap and it seems self-sufficiency, self-analysis and self-awareness are too often the victims.

In case anyone should think Iam against cricket being played fiercely hard, Douglas Jardine is my greatest sporting hero. When it was pointed out to the great ‘Bodyline’ captain that the baying mob on the Hill at Sydney did not much care for him, he replied that ‘the feeling is f****** mutual’. What he never did was run away. – Daily Mail


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