Graeme Swann is – or was – an outstanding international cricketer.
But he has let English cricket and his captain Alastair Cook down badly with his decision to bail out of the Ashes series on the eve of the Boxing Day Test.
Quitting at this stage of the series is an act of pure selfishness.
Swann was selected in a squad to play a five-Test series and he should have stuck it out to the end. That means through good times and bad. It would have all been over in a fortnight, for heaven’s sake.
Poor Cook. He had already lost Jonathan Trott from the original touring party and has had to watch the other senior players fall apart around him. Kevin Pietersen, Matt Prior and James Anderson have all been woefully out of form, Stuart Broad has an injured foot and now Swann has pulled the pin.
Cook has a marvellous record, but he is still an inexperienced captain and he could have done with Swann by his side during the tail end of what has been a horrible tour.
Trott has been unwell for a long time and did brilliantly to achieve as much as he did during his international career. We wish him well. But Swann is in a different camp altogether. What Cook needed was for Swann to stand up and be counted. Every Test between Australia and England is part of history and should be treated as such. After all, this was supposed to be a good side.
To make matters worse, Swann has made a nong of himself with his comments about some players being “up their own backsides”. Obviously he has said otherwise, but everyone assumes he was referring to Pietersen, so he has just added fuel to the fire.
That is the last thing England needs, a departing player turning the dressing room into a soap opera. He should have gone quietly, not posting tweets like that and then pretending that you were referring to the Australian side.
It is an unfortunate end for a genuinely fine cricketer. In terms of wickets, he is England’s second most successful spinner ever, behind Derek Underwood. I will never forget the ball that removed Ricky Ponting at Edgbaston in 2009 (see video below).
He is also a gun catch and a fantastic tail-ender. In fact is it an insult to call him a tail-ender; he was virtually a bowling all-rounder. So England will not only be weaker for missing his bowling, but also his catching and his batting. If Broad does not play in Melbourne, it will once again be a case of “five out, all out”.
How would Australians have felt if a key member of the squad that toured England earlier this year had pulled the plug halfway through? As it happens, Australia fought that series out to the end and the confidence they gained out of their last few performances has played an important role in their revival this summer.
England has been strong for eight to 10 years, but if this is the way they are going to respond when the going gets tough, the Australians will be pretty confident about their chances over there in 2015.