Graeme Swann has spoken of his heartache at quitting midway through the Ashes but believes it was the only decision he could make having felt “awful” in his bowling as the elbow problem he managed throughout his Test career became unmanageable.
Swann announced his retirement after England lost the series in Perth, at the time saying his body was no longer up to the demands of international cricket. His decision to hang up his boots with two Tests still to go split opinion between those who praised a courageous decision and others who felt he should have seen out the tour.
He had earmarked the end of the Ashes as when he would bring a close to his Test career, but as early as the warm-up matches he knew he was struggling. He had undergone a second elbow operation earlier in the year – missing the Test matches in New Zealand – and admitted that since returning during the last English season he had never felt himself.
“Quite simply, I was awful,” he said on his BBC Radio Five Live programme, Not Just Cricket. “Whenever I bowled in the past, I could always get a lot of revolutions on the ball, dip and trouble most batsmen I bowled at.
“But from the outset of the tour, in the warm-up matches, I just couldn’t do it. After my second elbow operation, I’ve never really got the same revolutions I got before it, but it just [deteriorated] and I really felt powerless to tie people down.”
Swann took seven wickets at 80 in the three Tests – meaning he finished his career with 255 scalps at 29.96 – and it was during the Adelaide Test, as Australia posted 570 in the first innings, that reality began to set in for him.
“In Adelaide, I was getting hit for six by a rabbit who bats at No. 11,” he said. “It gets to a point that you realise you are hindering the team. You are not helping them in any way.
“It’s a horrible feeling to come to terms with because you are playing for your country, you love playing cricket for England and it’s your life, but to actually come to that conclusion is possibly the most sobering decision I have ever had to make. It was horrendous.”
Swann’s departure as England lurched towards a whitewash fuelled speculation about a breakdown in the dressing room, a theme which gathered pace once the series was concluded with suggestions that Andy Flower and Kevin Pietersen could no longer work together and that Flower would demand the batsman was dropped.
However, Swann, who has admitted to having issues with Pietersen during his career, insisted that there were no rifts or personal feuds while he was part of the squad in Australia.
“It will probably surprise people to hear that the changing-room was not divided,” he said. “It was remarkably calm. People just knew we were not performing and they were doing whatever they could to improve that.
“He’s had his moments in the past where he certainly has been divisive in the dressing-room, but to be fair to Kev, since coming back from his ‘reintegration’ he has been much improved.”