- 3 Nov 2010
London: Graeme Swann has a simple solution for the age old problem of English spinners who, to adapt the biblical parable of the lilies of the field, toil but do not spin.
"They should be banished from the first class game. It winds me up, if you are a spinner, spin the ball," Swann said in an interview with Reuters at a Kinect Sports Superstars event last week.
"I have never, ever seen the point of bowling without trying to spin the ball. It`s been my bugbear that I have seen some young spinners come up who have got lovely control and land it nicely but don`t try to turn it."
Swann has climbed to number two in the world test rankings by giving the ball a fierce tweak from a vigorous body action.
"I really like watching the ball fizzing down," he said.
"That`s why I always like watching Shane Warne bowl, (Muttiah) Muralitharan bowl, these guys who really try and spin it, these are the guys I really try to emulate."
Unlike Warne, a classical wrist-spinner, and Muralitharan, who gained purchase from an abnormal wrist action which generated fierce controversy as well as sharp turn, Swann is an orthodox finger spinner.
"I`m certainly 10 times the bowler I was 10 years ago. The longer you play the game your body just gets used to it. Your rhythm comes naturally compared to when you were a kid when you have as many bad days as you do good," he said.
"I`m certainly bowling better than I was 10 years ago but hopefully there is more to come."
Jim Laker famously spun the ball so hard that that his close fielders could hear it hum in the air when he took 19 for 90 in the 1956 Manchester test against Australia.
The Australians promised revenge when Laker finally won selection for a tour down under in 1958-9. But, although the home side won the series 4-0, Laker still topped the bowling averages in both tests and first class matches.
English spinners, though, have rarely prospered either before or since on the unforgiving Australian pitches and Swann`s role in a four-man attack attracted much interest before the last Ashes series.
Swann was ready for the challenge in the midst of unsubtle hints in the Australian media that he might be targeted.
"It`s not an easy place to bowl because the wickets don`t turn," he said. "Sydney was famous for turning but it doesn`t anymore. You need footholes to make the ball go. In Melbourne it was almost going the other way.”
"Michael Hussey got after me in the first game in Brisbane but that was because I was bowling badly. A lot of people said he got to you and rattled you but he didn`t at all, I just bowled like a drain, I just didn`t bowl well.”
"People can think what they like, I know what was going on."
England recovered after a shaky start to draw in Brisbane and Swann then took five wickets in Australia`s second innings in Adelaide to set up an innings victory.
"The Adelaide Oval turned for a couple of reasons, because it was the dustiest wicket out there and Dougie Bollinger played and his foothole was just in the right place for me," he said.
"I was desperate for him to play in the rest of the series because it might have made Melbourne and Sydney turn a bit more."
Swann said if the Australians had had a policy to hit him out of the attack they would have tried it in Adelaide.
"But I was bowling very well there and managed to keep them in the crease," he said. "If you don`t bowl well you go for runs, it`s as simple as that as a finger spinner."
A spell in Melbourne on a pitch giving absolutely no assistance was, Swann believes, his best in test cricket, even though it yielded only one wicket, albeit an important victim in the shape of Michael Clarke.
"That`s the best I bowled for England, I hardly bowled a bad ball. It wasn`t turning at all but I still managed to get a lot of drift and maintain pressure for the seamers at the other end. I regard that as my finest performance with the ball," he said.
"My role turned into very much a holding role, allowing the seamers to build up pressure at the other end.”
"All I did was try and bowl dot balls. I thought aside from the Perth game (second test) I was able to do that so I was very happy."
Swann is now taking a break after a taxing winter during which the Ashes tour was followed by a one-day series against Australia and a protracted World Cup, which for England ended with defeat against Sri Lanka in the quarter-finals.
Sri Lanka and world one-day champions India are the visitors this summer and Swann is looking forward to the challenge of bowling to Sachin Tendulkar in what looks certain to be the Indian master`s last tour of England.
"You make challenges within your own head. I always look at the team sheet beforehand and target the batsmen I want to get out and it`s always the best player, it gives me personal satisfaction getting the best players out," he said.
"Sachin Tendulkar is the best player the game has had in my lifetime so it`s always a pleasure to play against him. But hopefully I won`t get to bowl to him too much this year because that would mean (opening bowler) Jimmy Anderson is doing his job at the top of the order."