Monday, June 23, 2014

Graeme Swann is commentary gold

I've enjoyed listening to Graeme Swann on Test Match Special over the last few days.

For the benefit of those who neither know nor care about sport or cricket, Graeme Swann was a spin bowler who was one of England's few world-class players until time caught up with him and his body broke down during this winter's nightmare tour of Australia.

Swann's a really good talker. Not an intellectual but an easy conversationalist, a talented mimic and smart enough to be able to convey the nuances of what it's like out there in the middle.

During his stints at the microphone over the last few days the professional commentators have taken every opportunity to tap into his recent experience of being in the team to get him to talk about what he thought would be going on in the dressing room or out in the middle at various points in the contest. It's been fascinating.

From the fragments that emerged you could assemble an impression of a modern professional sporting outfit, an impression that you could probably apply to the England football, rugby or hockey team.

It's a set-up in which a majority of senior players have their place by a kind of divine right, a handful of young players are trying to claw their way to the same position and there's a tacit agreement that highly developed "banter" has taken the place of actually talking about the job.

Throughout the match summariser Geoff Boycott kept pointing out that England's top bowler Jimmy Anderson was bowling a length which was inappropriate for the ground. Swann was forced to agree but said that in Jimmy's head he was doing the right thing.

This was really interesting. That's the thing they say about sporting performance. You have to concentrate without thinking. Thinking might mean looking down and that could mean falling. So you keep on executing, "putting the ball in the right areas", as they invariably say, and just keep hoping against hope that something is going to happen. Hoping that the game will change rather than directly seeking to change the game.

Fresh from the fray Graeme Swann is briefly allowed the rare privilege of seeing the things the fray would have prevented him from seeing. He can no longer change anything, of course, and within a year his actual recall of being on the pitch will have been replaced by a number of picturesque "memories" to be endlessly rehearsed in commentary boxes all over the world. For the moment he's commentary gold.


  1. Contrast Swann with Phil 'interesting' Neville and you wonder that they could both be hired by the same company.

  2. Interesting stuff. While Jimmy might well think he is doing the right thing, it would also appear that the captain doesn't have enough authority to tell him he is not.

  3. He's been a treat. I hope he has a regular contract. Having been only a county player for so long, he has a great fund of stories.

    He's a natural.