Graeme Swann for next year’s BBC award?
What price on Graeme Swann succeeding Ryan Giggs as BBC Sports Personality of the Year?
True, no matter how spectacular their efforts, a cricketer’s only real chance of lifting the trophy comes during an Ashes summer, but the man who has starred with 5-110 and a superb, counter attacking 85 in the opening Test in Centurion this week is fast becoming every Englishman’s favourite player.
Certainly if personality is the major criteria, it is difficult to look beyond Swann. Anyone who follows the off-spinner on twitter will appreciate his effervescent, joyful approach to life and childish sense of humour which, though it might have counted against him in the eyes of certain judges in the past, has only added to his appeal.
It is a measure of his success and all round talents that just a year into his career it is already difficult to imagine an England team without Swann and Monty Panesar’s sad decline has passed largely without mourning.
The personality of the two spinners could hardly more different and as part of an inexperienced England attack Swann’s forceful, boisterous mentality was far more beneficial to the side than a frail Panesar, deep in the midst of a confidence crisis.
Kevin Pietersen, captaining the side in India, seemed to trust Swann instantly and by the time Andrew Strauss led the team for the tumultuous tour of the West Indies, Swann was in the process of making the spinners role his own.
He is largely an orthodox finger spinner but one who spins the ball sharply with good control and the proliferation of left-handers in the international game has worked to his advantage. More than half of Swann’s 53 wickets so far have been lefties but the moment he cemented his international reputation came against a right hander at Headingly last summer.
Swann, bowling to Ricky Ponting, produced a sublime over in which the great Australian no.3 twice survived fierce LBW shouts before being cleaned up by a dipping, fizzing off break which dissected the slightest of gaps between bat and pad. The final result, a tame draw, might have overshadowed Swann’s eureka moment but he was on hand at the Oval to provide the final polish on an Ashes winning campaign when Mike Hussey propped Swann into the hands of Alistair Cook at short leg.
At 30, Swann has enough experience to feel thoroughly comfortable with his game and if the quality of his switch-hitting off Paul Harris on Friday told us anything, it’s that confidence can only make you a better player.