Ian Baker - English sport has a new hero in Graeme Swann
30 Dec 2009 - 19:59:08
English sport has found itself a new hero. A player with character, spirit and belief in the mould of a Paul Gascoigne, Ricky Hatton or even Andrew Flintoff. A real joker in the pack. That man is Graeme Swann.
On the field, the spinner has now taken 54 wickets in 2009, the best ever by an Englishmen in a calendar. But it is the buzz and belief that he gives his side on and off the pitch that really creates him.
When asked how the pitch will pan out after day three of the Durban Test, Swann told the media: "I really don’t know, you’ll have to ask Straussy, that's why I’ll never be an England captain."
He laughed at himself and the room erupted. Swann has been England's player of 2009, no doubt about it.
He is proving to be England's greatest spinner since the likes of John Emburey, yes better than Phil Tufnell, Ashley Giles and Monty Panesar.
At last this country has a truly world-class spin bowler which other countries are genuinely frightened about. Swann has 14 Test wickets in this series so far and has thoroughly deserved them.
But he has delivered with the bat too. His 85 at Centurion lifted the mood around the England dressing room when it needed it most. Swann the positive character really stands a class apart amongst other men to have played for England.
He scored 22 off just 14 balls when England needed to score quick runs in the Durban Test. It is a shame that Swann was not considered for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
That award has fast become not only a Sportsman of the Year award but a popularity contest too.
And given Swann's reputation amongst England players and supporters, he should at the very least have been considered.
The dour Ryan Giggs, who has achieved very little in terms of sporting achievements this year, or a man that has given English cricket a real boost?
In the true sense of the world popularity, Swann stands hands down. You'd go along way to find someone who is a greater champion - on and off the pitch.
IAN BAKER WILL BE BLOGGING FROM SOUTH AFRICA THROUGHOUT THE TEST SERIES