Former England spinner Graeme Swann, talks to FS magazine about being boozy, crushing the Aussies in three Ashes series and laughing at pressure.
Winning the U19 World Cup with England in 1998 taught me that team spirit could overcome unfavourable odds. We weren’t the best team on paper and we’d had a long tour, but we bonded so well as a unit that when push came to shove, when the pressure was off, we just loosened the shackles and enjoyed ourselves. We were almost unstoppable and it was something I took into other tours.
I was an overpaid cocky teenager when I missed the bus on my first tour. I overslept and I was a 19-year-old with a lot of money in my pocket, and not enough talent to show for it. I was drinking too much and I wasn’t getting enough sleep. The repercussions of that were a £250 fine and an early hiatus. You can get away with it a bit if you’re one of the best players in the world… but I wasn’t.
Any pressure is just fear of failure. It has no benefit and as soon as you get rid of all those negative influences, it’s amazing how easy the game is. For me, I would internalise it, laugh it off, pretend I didn’t care about it. I learned that in my Test debut. Two of the best players in the world went out to balls they should never have gone out to, and it made me realise that it’s all in the head.
“If you put your neck on the line and act like a bit of an arse, you have more of a chance of leading your team to victory”
Winning the Ashes in 2009 at the Oval was the highlight of my career. I don’t think it gets much better than walking around the Oval with Rule Britannia and Land
Of Hope And Glory playing in the background. I was the only one that knew all the words to Land Of Hope And Glory as well.
Everything came together for me to become the best bowler in the world. It’s all about right place, right time. I was lucky in that there were a lot of left-handers at the time, and DRS just came in, and I had a lot of self-belief. I wasn’t letting things pressure me and I was at the peak of my powers, so it all came together nicely.
I wanted to be centre of attention. I wanted to be the match winner, and man of the match. If you put your neck on the line and act like a bit of an arse, you have more of a chance of leading your team to victory.
When I retired, my world came crashing down. I had elbow problems and it came to a head. I should have done it three months before, but I convinced myself that maybe I could squeeze in one more tour. It’s horrible. You feel like Superman without a cape.
Having distractions from cricket was vital. Some people need to be absolutely immersed in cricket and live a life of it. I needed the opposite. I used my band [Dr Comfort and the Lurid Revelations] and a bit of writing here and there, which helped me escape.
The ICC Champions Trophy 2017 tournament will be held in England and Wales from 1 to 18 June 2017. For tickets, visit ICC-cricket.com/tickets
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