Never dreamt of getting in the 200 club: Swann
Mumbai, Nov 24: On the second day of the Mumbai Test, Graeme Swann became only the second England spinner to get to 200 Test wickets. In the process he claimed the last three Indian wickets to keep their first-innings total to 327. Swann has come a long way from the time he made his international debut in 2000 as a enthusiastic but at times, seemingly arrogant, 21-year-old. Today, he is arguably the best classical off-spinner in the world and England’s major weapon to get to the pinnacle of Test cricket.
On achieving the historic milestone, Swann admitted he didn’t expect his Test career to flourish thus, when he made his debut in 2008. “Five years ago I wouldn't have dreamed of taking 200 wickets,” he said. “I am absolutely over the moon with the way my career has panned out. The change at the top has come just at the right time for me, and it has been a great four years, I have enjoyed every minute.”
The England off-spinner got to the magic number when he dismissed his Indian counterpart, Harbhajan Singh in India’s first innings. And as if to celebrate his achievement, Swann followed it up with the wicket of Cheteshwar Pujara, who was undefeated in the series till then.
Pujara, who scored 135 in that innings, had amassed 382 runs from three innings – including the two in the Ahemdabad Test – batting for 16 hours and 55 minutes without being dismissed. It was apt that England’s best bowler in the series so far, got him out.
“Pujara has been the stand-out batsman for India so far,” Swann said of the young Indian batsman. “He uses his feet very well and he plays the ball on the merit. The runs he scored speak for themselves. It was nice to finally dismiss him.
“It doesn't normally take three innings of a Test series to get a man out but we have done it now so hopefully that has taken the finger out of the dough. He has got a game plan that works for him. He doesn't hit the ball in the air and plays it along the ground. He is a fine player and he is in good form at the moment,” Swann said.
Before Swann wiped the Indian lower-order off, it was his fellow spinner, Monty Panesar who rocked the hosts with a five-wicket haul. Swann was particularly chuffed for the left-arm-spinner.
“Monty bowled magnificiently yesterday. It was great to see. I am a big advocate of playing with two spinners. I love playing with Monty. I grew up in North Hampton when he was first starting out and I just love it when he takes a wicket,” he said, before describing the joy on Panesar’s face after dismissing Sachin Tendulkar on Day 1 of the Test. “That face like a man possessed when he got Sachin Tendulkar out yesterday – I have never seen a man so wound up like this one. He is brilliant,” Swann said.
With both India and England deciding to add a spinner to their respective attacks for the Test, it was expected that the wicket at the Wankhede Stadium would deteriorate rather quickly. However, as Alastair Cook (87*) and Kevin Pietersen (62*) have shown, it isn’t the crumbing dust-bowl it was predicted to be.
“It's a kind of wicket if you get set on, it's good for batting, even though it has pace and bounce. Once you get the rhythm of batting on this pitch, it's a nice wicket to bat on. We were lucky yesterday that Monty kept picking wickets every 45-50 minutes and you get a new man at the crease. That slows the run rate and it makes it harder to get set. The only guy who got set for India yesterday was Pujara. It showed that when he was in there for time, he was tricky to get out.
“I have quite liked bowling on this pitch. It is obviously better to bowl spin on than the one we had in the first Test as this one has got a lot more bounce. Last week, it brought the left arm into the game a lot more because the ball was keeping low and so lbw is much more dangerous way to get them out. When there is more bounce, the lbw is not so threatening throughout the innings. We are used to wickets with bounce than what we had last week,” he said while assessing the Wankhede wicket.
If Pujara has held the Indian batting together in the series so far, it is their captain, Alastair Cook who has led England from the front. After scoring a marathon 176 in Ahmedabad, Cook has now put England in a decent position, reducing the first-innings deficit to 149 with eight wickets in hand.
“I said before the series that Cookie’s batting could blossom as a captain as it did in the ODIs arena and if it does, we would be one lucky team,” Swann said. “So far, he has proved thus. He has batted magnificently in the three innings he had so far, touchwood, but he has got a long way to go in this one. When you have got a guy at the top of the order as cool a head as he has, and is also leading the guys, it is very reassuring,” Swann said of his skipper.
Although pleased with how the day panned out for England, Swann cautioned his team against getting too comfortable with the position in which they are.
“I wouldn't say we are in a particularly strong position in the game. We are in a good position but we are not at the stage where we can say that we will win this one. We have got a lot of hard work ahead of us,” he said.