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Graeme Swann: Statistical overview of England’s skilful off-spinner

 

Graeme Swann © Getty Images
Graeme Swann was the most impressive spin bowler in past decade © Getty Images

 

As Graeme Swann brings an abrupt end to his remarkable career, Abhijit Banare looks at some impressive career statistics of the right-arm spinner across formats, especially in Tests.

 

A sparkling career came to an end as Graeme Swann, one of the finest off-spinners of this era announced retirement from all forms of the game after the Ashes 2013-14 disaster. Very few players in the world can look back at the start of their career and point that their first match reflects a lot about the way their career progressed. Swann made a feeble entry into international cricket in 2000 only to find himself in wilderness for eight long years, before making an impressive entry into Test cricket in 2008 against India at Chennai. In the first over of his Test career, Swann got Gautam Gambhir out leg-before and followed it up with the scalp of Rahul Dravid in a similar way. Back then, very few could predict about the off-spinner’s ability to dismiss left-hand batsmen leg-before and be as effective in away matches as he is at home. Below are a few interesting numbers, especially in Test cricket, wherein he made a lot of impact.

 

M

W

Ave

Tests

60

255

29.96

ODIs

79

104

27.76

T20s

39

51

16.84

 

In Tests

 

M

W

Ave

2008

2

8

29.5

2009

12

54

27.92

2010

14

64

25.96

2011

8

27

34.22

2012

14

59

29.93

2013

10

43

34.09

 

The year 2010 was certainly one of the best years for Swann. He bagged the most number of Test wickets in this duration. He was also among England’s leading wicket-takers in the T20 World Cup which they won in the Caribbean.

 

Test cricket

 

With 255 wickets in 60 matches, Swann was the most impressive spin bowler in past decade.  In a team known for its quality fast bowlers, Swann stood as an equally class spinner who helped the English side to successfully dominate both at home and away. In fact, Swann has picked more wickets in away matches than at home which speaks volumes about his qualities.

 

M

W

Ave

Home

32

120

28.94

Away

28

135

30.88

 

Formidable non-Asian teams often struggle to get going in the subcontinent. . But Swann’s presence has helped England to thrive in the subcontinent conditions and give the opposition batsmen run for their money.  Batsmen in Asia are usually adept against spin, but Swann was up for the challenge always. A total of 73 wickets in 13 matches is an impressive number and he certainly led from the front in conditions where pitches suited him.  In the historic series win against India in 2012, Swann was the leading wicket-taker with 20 scalps in four Tests and along with Monty Panesar he ripped through the Indian batting.

 

M

W

Ave

India

6

28

28.96

Sri Lanka

2

16

22.18

Pakistan

3

13

25.07

Bangladesh

2

16

25.25

 


Trouble for left-hand batsmen in Test cricket

 

W

LHB

RHB

255

122

133

 

Swann found it easier to dismiss the left-handed batsmen. The right-arm off-spinner attacked well from around the wicket with control, made the life of the batsmen difficult with the ‘under-cutter’ (Swann’s arm-ball), that skids straight on into the pads of the batsmen. As mentioned earlier, Swann’s maiden Test wicket of Gambhir was in a similar fashion. Swann also had the ‘flying saucer delivery’ (as he nicknamed it) which went flat and faster into the batsmen. Out of the 122 left-hand batsmen he dismissed, 43 were leg-before decisions. Overall, Swann got 70 wickets leg-before. However, in the ongoing Ashes, the Australians had strategised against Swann. Their present batting order doesn’t have any left-hand batsmen from No 3 to No 7. They have two left-handers at the top in form of openers David Warner and Chris Rogers.

 

Not to forget that Swann played in the Decision Review System (DRS) era where many of the batsmen coming forward were dismissed leg-before mainly because of the use of the technology.  If Swann’s wickets are analysed, 47 per cent of his victims in Tests are left-handed batsmen.  Now when we compare it with his rival Saeed Ajmal’s wickets, 52 of his victims are left-handed batsmen that amount to 32 per cent of his overall wickets.

 

 

Australian conditions not the best for Swann? 

 

While the off-spinner thrived in Asia, Swann’s record in Australia wasn’t something he could be proud of. Even in the last Ashes tour in 2010-11 which England won, Swann had 15 wickets in the five Tests. . However, he wasn’t threatening in that series but managed to tame down the batsmen on many occasions, which assisted the pacers to sneak the breakthroughs. His struggle in the ongoing series then comes as no big surprise as the purchase from the wicket hasn’t been the same and the pacers are struggling to get things right as well. Moreover, the presence of right-hand batsmen apart from the openers in the Australian line-up kept Swann at bay. Michael Clarke, in particular, was troubled by the off-spinner in the previous Ashes in England. But this time around, Clarke used his feet to great extent to counter him and so did the other batsmen.

 

Swann had three ten-wicket hauls and 17 five-fors to his name. His best performance came against New Zealand at Leeds earlier in 2013 where he bagged 10 for 132. In terms of his worst bowling performances, Swann has gone wicket-less seven times in his career and all of them have come at home (Twice at Nottingham and Lord’s).

 

 

A handy figure in ODIs and T20

 

Though Swann played well in both the limited-overs formats of the game, he was not a regular towards the end with use of players like James Tredwell and others. Yet he was still economical in Twenty20 and holds an equally impressive average in One-Day International (ODI) format. Swann was slightly faster while bowling in the limited-overs format in comparison to Tests. He has two five-fors in the 50-over format among which his five for 28 against Australia at Chester-le-Street is his best figures. His average in these two formats is still impressive considering the slam bang method of the game these days.

 

 

Graeme Swann the batsman:

 

M

Runs

Ave

Hs

Tests

60

1340

22.09

85

ODIs

79

500

13.88

34

T20s

39

104

20.8

34

 

 

He was a useful batsman who could survive and play some big shots. As the numbers show, his limited-overs records aren’t as noteworthy as his Tests records are. Not many would forget the famous escape where Swann along with Graham Onions hung on for a while to eke out a draw in the dying moments of the third at Cape Town against South Africa in 2010. He did provide some entertainment in a 2009 test against the Proteas at Centurion scoring an 81-ball 85.

 

Swann was arguably the best off-spinner of this era with no controversies around his bowling. He was clearly the old school off-spinner having faith in his traditional off-spin with subtle variations. And remarkably, nothing called a doosra existed for Swann. As a fine career ends, it’s time for Monty Panesar to rise to the occasion and deliver. Also one needs to note that England have struggled to have a backup for Swann and Panesar. Their experiment of using Simon Kerrigan failed miserably in the Ashes earlier this year.

 

Graeme Swann retirement

 

 (Abhijit Banare is a reporter at CricketCountry. He is an avid quizzer and loves to analyse and dig out interesting facts which allows him to learn something new every day. Apart from cricket he also likes to keep a sharp eye on Indian politics, and can be followed on Twitter and blog)

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