Award-winning Swann feared England chance had gone
LONDON: Graeme Swann, England''s newly crowned cricketer of the year, had resigned himself to accepting his time in the international arena had long since been and gone.
The 31-year-old off-spinner, who has taken 99 wickets in 45 matches across all formats for England during the past 12 months, was named as the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) Brit Men''s Cricketer of the Year during a ceremony at Lord''s here on Monday.
He first toured with England as a 20-year-old in South Africa in 1999/2000.
But Swann''s distinctive sense of humour failed to impress then England coach Duncan Fletcher.
It was not until eight years later and a change of both coaching regime and county - the bowler joined Nottinghamshire, with whom he won the County Championship in 2005, from his native Northamptonshire, that Swann was back in Test contention.
By then Swann had more or less accepted his England career might be limited to a lone one-day international in Bloemfontein in January 2000.
"Maybe you don''t exactly give up, but you accept you''re not going to play," Swann, set to be in the England team that plays in the first Test against Bangladesh starting at Lord''s on Thursday, said.
"You get to a point when, no matter how well you do, you see other people being picked ahead of you, that you assume you''ve missed your chance."
Swann has become one of the mainstays of England''s attack and played an important role both in last year''s Ashes series win and the recent World Twenty20 triumph in the Caribbean.
He explained the realisation he''d been granted a second chance had led to a small but important change in his attitude.
"What it did mean was that when I did get the chance to play again it all seemed a bigger deal," he said.
"The first time round it was a bit of a joke, a bit of a laugh, on tour with my heroes.
"Second time round, you think, ''Well, how am I going to make sure I stick with this?''.
"I found the only way to really enjoy it was to play with a massive smile on my face, so that''s what I''ve tried to do."
Asked what the turning point had been, Swann replied: "Pretty obviously, leaving Northampton and going to Trent Bridge was probably the kick up the backside my career needed," Swann said.
"It wasn''t so much that it improved me overnight, but it taught me to bowl on wickets that were more akin to Test cricket."
Meanwhile Swann, who took 54 Test wickets in 2009, said his international success owed much to the fact that off-spin had come back into fashion.
"Cricket has a strange way of going round in big circles, and I''m sure within two or three years off-spinners will be back out of vogue.
"Certain things have gone in our favour - the referral system, a lot of left-handed players at the minute, fairly slow wickets and a lot that have turned
"It all adds up to this being the time for off-spinners."
Swann won the award - voted for by members of the British cricket media - ahead of fellow nominees, Test captain Andrew Strauss, Twenty20 skipper Paul Collingwood and pace bowlers Stuart Broad and James Anderson.
"If you''d told me this three years ago, I''d have laughed at you and said ''there''s no chance''. It''s a nice bit of cherry on the cake," Swann said.
Swann, along with the rest of the World Twenty20 squad, enjoyed a reception at 10 Downing Street, British Prime Minister David Cameron''s official residence, earlier on Monday.
"One of the perks of playing for England, doing well - especially winning World Cups - I expect the ticker-tape parade and meeting the Prime Minister," Swann joked.
"I''m waiting for my audience with The Queen, but I''m not sure that one''s going to come just yet."