Graeme Swann departed Test cricket with abrupt certainty on Sunday but not before taking a barely disguised swipe at some of his fellow England players for not respecting the game. "Some people playing the game at the minute have no idea how far up their own backsides they are," Swann said at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
"It will bite them on the a--- one day and when it does I hope they look back and are embarrassed about how they carry on." Swann refused to name those he considers the guilty men but it is well known that he and Kevin Pietersen do not send each other Xmas cards. If other players have raised his hackles he has kept their identity to himself. It was the most animated moment during his retirement press conference and the only one where he was criticised his team-mates. Otherwise he was full of praise for players who had been his "family" for the past 51/2 years.
"That is one of the things I'm nervous about to be honest because it is all I've been used to and all of a sudden I've got my wife and kids to go home to and I've not got that sounding board of the changing room with 15 other blokes who know where you're coming from and have the same bawdy humour to put up with your jokes," he said. "It is well documented that some people struggle after retiring, but I don't think I will from that point of view, it will just be weird. These are my best mates, and although I've got a good network of friends in Nottingham it is still going to be hard waking up without anywhere to be." Swann welled up several times when talking about the reasons for his retirement and what his career meant to him, but he refused to shed any tears.
"I'm not going to cry for you," he said. "I've seen so many people cry. It is very emotional because it's the end of everything I've know, everything I've loved. It's not just England. In February I'm going to have to go to Trent Bridge and clear my locker out. I have so many fond memories of that place. I know that'll choke me up when I do that. But to sit here and know I've played 60 Tests and however many one-dayers and taken the wickets I have and been involved in the teams I have, I can scarcely believe it. I feel like a lottery winner, I feel ridiculous." As a Test spinner for England he is second to Derek Underwood, and possibly Jim Laker, though Swann took more Test wickets than him.
"When I went past Jim Laker my mum phoned me up and she was almost in tears as Jim Laker was her dad's favourite bowler and I only knew Grandad Les until I was seven or eight. "My mum knew nothing about cricket but she always heard him mention Laker and she could not believe I'd gone past him. I couldn't believe it either as I didn't know how many wickets he had taken. I feel very humbled to have done that.
"The other day I went past Brian Statham, there are stands named after him. Things like that make you pinch yourself and make you wonder how it has all been possible in such a short period of time. I'm incredibly proud of what I've achieved. I still think some mystical force has helped me along the way because surely it is not as easy as that." Swann's decision to retire mid-series has not been met with total understanding and there are those who feel he should have stayed the course whether he was picked for the last two Tests or not. After all, his elbow must have still been hurting from surgery when he signed his central contract.
"There are people who pick fault with everything. But to carry on playing would be completely the wrong thing for the team regardless of the senior player, junior player thing. If you are playing for the wrong reasons you are not helping anybody. If I played in this Boxing Day Test and the Sydney Test it would be to experience them again and go out waving to the Barmy Army as I walked off. That sort of player doesn't deserve to be in the team. You don't build teams around guys like that."
Having been close to both captain and coach, he found it hard to tell them of his decision, which he made during the Adelaide Test when England were still only one down in the series.
"Cooky knew. I stand next to him at slip and he said, 'I knew something was up'. I found it so hard with Cooky because we spend so much time together, we take the mickey out of each other all the time and we're next to each other in the changing room too, so for two or three days I've avoided him thinking the time is not right. So he knew something was coming. I walked into the breakfast room to meet him more nervous than I would be going out to play on the first day of the Boxing Day Test match. It was weird."
Swann does not plan to play any more cricket unless it is with his son Wilf or daughter Charlotte, or if an Indian Premier League team makes him an offer he cannot refuse. "I hope I will play games of cricket in the future and enjoy them and I hope they're alongside my boy for the Sunday Seconds when he's about 15, just showing him the ropes. "I opened the batting with my dad in the Premier League in Northampton. We both got 100 in one game once and I was out in the 21st over. He said take your mark, carry on son and get a double here. I went: 'Don't be stupid dad'. I got caught on the boundary next ball and he, to prove a point, went on to get 160 not out. He just walked off and said: 'You're an idiot.' "I'm not going to play league cricket. I just don't like fielding enough to do that. But if Wilf gets into cricket and there's a chance to play with him, then I'll enjoy that."