England off-spinner Graeme Swann has announced his retirement from international cricket, with immediate effect.
The 34-year-old's announcement comes as a shock, given that he is currently part of the England team contesting the Ashes in Australia, and that there are two Tests still to play.
Cricket (@TheSunCricket) December 21, 2013
In an exclusive interview with The Sun (subscription required—quotes here via The Guardian), Swann explained his decision:
I came to Australia in the hope of winning our fourth Ashes series on the trot, but that's now impossible. So it's time for someone else to buckle in and enjoy the ride.
I could have made myself available for the last two Tests and maybe had a bit of a send-off from the Barmy Army. But that's no reason to hang on for two more games. I like to be the centre of attention—but for the right reason: by winning games of cricket.
Swann has struggled with form this series and over recent years has struggled with elbow injuries which have required surgery.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan was one of the first to pay tribute to Swann's career:
Too soon IMO for Graeme Swann 2 retire but it's been a absolute pleasure watching him perform for many years.Finger spin out of the top draw— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) December 21, 2013
Of all the England players over the last 20 yrs he is the one the team who miss the most .. Spinners of his quality are a rare breed...— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) December 21, 2013
He has also been a brilliant character who plays the game how it should be played .. With a energy of fun and humour.. #OldSchool— Michael Vaughan (@MichaelVaughan) December 21, 2013
Swann was a late bloomer at international level. He first toured with England in 1999-2000, but as Simon Briggs of the Daily Telegraph recorded, he did not fit well with then coach Duncan Fletcher and had to wait until 2008 for an opportunity at Test level.
From the moment he made his debut, however, he was an integral part of the team:
Graeme Swann played his first Test in December 2008, since which England have played 66 Tests, he has played 60 of them. #Ashes— Freddie Wilde (@fwildecricket) December 21, 2013
Swann's Test record is, for a finger-spinner, exceptional. He is sixth on the all-time list of England wicket-takers, with only Derek Underwood boasting more scalps as a spinner.
In the short term, England can cover his absence by playing Monty Panesar at Melbourne on Boxing Day. Alternatively England could field an all-seam attack, with a trio of tall pace-men—Boyd Rankin, Steven Finn and Chris Tremlett—all with the touring squad.