The Long Road Back

The omissions and inclusions in the latest list of centrally-contracted England players were predictable, but I was heartened and pleased by the return to the ODI side of Graeme Swann, who hasn't had so much as a sniff of a place in the squad since he went to South Africa around the turn of the millennium and was thought to have upset Duncan Fletcher with his insouciant attitude.

At age-group level in England Swann was one of the more talented players of his generation and a member, alongside Owais Shah and Robert Key (and a few other county journeymen like Stephen Peters) of the side which won the under-19 World Cup in early 1998. Later that year he made a sparkling start to his career with Northants -I particularly remember innings of 92 and 111 from number eight in a losing cause at Leicester - and, when he was called up to the England side at the end of the decade, his future looked assured. Somehow, though, it never really happened. The years since have seen him falter at Northampton, move to Nottingham, struggle to make a consistent impression in the first-class game but develop into a dangerous operator in limited-overs cricket with both bat and ball, and retain the enthusiasm and humour which made him stand out back then.

He's another example of the type of player - like Ryan Sidebottom - who would never have found a way back into 'Team England' under Fletcher's dogmatic stewardship, and the resurrection of players like this is as good a retrospective argument for Fletcher's replacement with Peter Moores as I've found. And it was instructive to hear Swann himself say last night that Sidebottom's recall and the success that followed it was one of the main things which gave him hope that he too could find a way back.

And now, with the England ODI side finally looking like it could be moving in the right direction, is a pretty good time to return. With Panesar's continuing inability to reproduce his Test form and Swann's batting and fielding potential, a longer-term place in the side could be well within reach of a player who seems to have been around for a very long time but is only 28.

I hope he makes it.

No comments:

Subscribe in a reader