Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

Graeme Swann's sights on glory and honour

NOTTINGHAM, ENGLAND - JULY 08: Graeme Swann of England is all smiles during net practice at Trent Bridge on July 8, 2013 in Nottingham, England. (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Graeme Swann will do all he can to make England's cricketers the toast of a famous sporting summer -- and will not complain either if some belated individual recognition comes his way.

Swann is a two-time Ashes winner already but, unlike the majority of his established contemporaries, has yet to have his achievements endorsed in the honours system.

MBEs and the like were handed out universally among Michael Vaughan's 2005 Ashes-winners, then less liberally to those who joined in to prevail over Australia in 2009 and again in 2010/11 under Andrew Strauss.

Swann therefore remains bereft -- until and unless, at least, he features in a hat-trick of Ashes successes in a series which will get under way on his home ground in Nottingham tomorrow.

It was a typical Swann flight of fancy which took him off on an honours theme after he had stressed already how much a third consecutive victory over Australia would mean to him.

The British and Irish Lions' series win over Australia and then Andy Murray's first home win for 77 years in the Wimbledon Men's Singles set the scene for a summer of national sporting achievement.

"As a supporter, I am huge fan of everything England or Britain does," said Swann.

"In the Olympics (last year), I was as proud as anyone when they were doing well; in the football World Cup, I'm there screaming them on ... to inevitable penalty defeat by the Germans every time.

"I feel those losses as much as anyone, so I can understand how a successful English team is important to people.

"If I wasn't playing in this series, I would be standing in a pub for seven weeks solid cheering on England.

"I hope we can provide a lot of people with a lot of reasons to get very drunk."

Alastair Cook's Test team want to beat Australia, not just to keep up with the Lions and Murray, but for their own sporting ambition -- and Swann sees no harm in aiming high, albeit characteristically tongue-in-cheek.

"If we do well, in seven weeks' time and you get swept up in the euphoria and you end up with MBEs," he said.

"No hang on, half our team have got MBEs already -- knighthoods, let us say, let's dream big.

"Yeah, why not? We win 5-0; I take 50 wickets, I get knighted -- PM in five years' time."

Swann's words are loaded with deliberate exaggeration, of course, but he is determined too and would rather satirise the hype than start to believe it.

"We're not going into this game viewing the Australians as anything other than a very difficult team to beat -- despite recent results in India ... we're not viewing them as a pushover," he said.

"We know we have to play unbelievable cricket for the next six weeks and we know that if man-for-man we out-perform them we are going to win this series.

"That's what we will be aiming to do. Favourites' tags are quite dangerous if you start believing them -- start believing your own hype. It can bite you on the backside fairly quickly, this game."

One of England's biggest weapons may be a fit-again Kevin Pietersen -- back with a refreshing new attitude since his summer of discontent, according to Swann.

Asked whether he agrees with Strauss' published assessment of Pietersen as one of England's greatest but also more disruptive cricketers, he said: "I don't know -- I've never had to captain him.

"Since he has come back, he has been great.

"That reintegration that took place before (the successful winter tour of) India, I think that was important for the team and for Kevin especially -- and he responded very well to it.

"He was exceptional in India -- not only on the field, but also he changed his demeanour off it as well and really became a positive part of the side."

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