When half the cricket fraternity is contagiously competing to unearth a bowler with either a quirky action or a mysterious skill set, as though they are timelessly precious, Graeme Swann’s success is proof enough that such exercises are merely hollow. The most conventional of the modern-day offies, Swann hasn’t any halo of mystery surrounding him, but is a classic example of effecting orthodoxy in the most effective method to price out his scalps.
Having already vanquished half the world, India is perhaps the to-be destination for Swann to reinforce or perhaps enhance his reputation. For, if the tracks here are friendly for spinners, the confronting batsmen are adept at blowing the best out of business. Shane Warne’s is a classic case.
In that light, Swann probably exceeded his expectations, accounting for all four batsmen who fell on Thursday. He exhibited that he possessed not just the variations to trouble batsmen but also patience to earn their wickets. That he shouldered one third of England’s bowling (32 overs) and sustained the same sharpness throughout attest to his endurance. He admitted it was a tough day for England. “When you lose the toss and bowl first you want a couple of wickets into the lunch. But they got off to a good start. So it was a tough first session. The way their guys came out and batted - Sehwag was superb for the first two hours. But I thought after that we bounced back well and it was nice to pick up some wickets myself. The second session was good for us while the third was more or less even. We would have been happier with 5-6 wickets,” he said.
He also had to endure sloppy fielding (Matt Prior missed a stumping and Jonathan Trott grassed a sitter at first slip). “Yeah we did but it wasn’t a case of us not trying hard, but sometimes on a long, hot day you tend to lose your focus,” he reasoned.
Virat Kohli’s dismissal was perhaps his most satisfactory scalp. “That’s my favourite mode of dismissal, getting batsmen bowled through the gate, though I was a bit fortunate this time. The umpires had changed the ball a few overs earlier and hence it was hard. So it spun more than I expected,” he chuckled.
In the process, he displaced the legendary Jim Laker as England’s most successful off-spinner. “I feel really proud, because he is someone you grown up emulating. I never thought I could achieve this,” he said. “We will try keeping them to as low a total as possible and putting some big score,” he added.