The Non-Conformist

When I hinted last week that I thought that at least one of Graeme Swann, Kevin Pietersen and Andy Flower would soon take the decision to move on from Test cricket, I wasn't expecting something to happen so soon. Indeed, I wasn't necessarily expecting Swann to be dropped for the Melbourne Test, even though it seemed like the right thing to do. With the replacement of Prior apparently inevitable, I was doubtful that the England management would want to make too many changes at once, even if their team was looking more and more like a busted flush by the day. In the event, Swann took the decision out of the hands of Flower and his cohorts, and this was far from surprising. Swann has always had a welcome tendency to say and do what he wants, rather than what's expected of him.

Beyond the more obvious things that Graeme Swann gave England in his late-flowering career - beyond his crafty, aggressive bowling, his reliable slip catching and his punchy, vivacious batting - he stood as living proof that it was possible for a contemporary player to cut through the vacuity and bullshit of the modern player-media relationship. Swann, who'd really done his time on the county circuit and consequently stood slightly apart from much of the regimented behaviour and thinking of the modern international player, tended to tell it as he saw it, which was refreshing in itself. At times, as in the past few days, it would lead to more questions than answers, but it was always good to feel that you were getting the genuine opinions of someone who came across as having a wider world-view than most of his colleagues.

In the short term, arguments will continue about whether it was right for Swann to retire in the middle of the series or not - I tend towards the latter view - but, given Swann's personality it wasn't surprising. In a similar situation, Alastair Cook or Ian Bell, conformists to the last (and none the worse as men for that) would have been in for the long haul. Swann, though, is cut from different cloth.

And England will miss him more than they know.

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