Saturday, 31 December 2011

Seven Swans

On the seventh day of Christmas my true love gave to me seven swans a-swimming.

It is unclear how true love got hold of one swan, let alone seven.  For in the UK swans are protected and it is illegal to kill them (or wrap them in gift paper for the purposes of making presents of them). The Queen  owns all the swans in Great Britain, except for those in the Orkney Islands where the swans belong to the people. So unless this is an Orcadian romance, there may be some explaining to do.

But swans crop up everywhere as symbols of just about everything.  Richard Wagner is swan rich territory - Parsifal shoots a swan leading to 5 hours of full volume Wagnerian singing and Lohengrin sails up river on a swan to present himself to his true love.  Swan Lake is awash with dancing cygnets, and even glam rockers like Marc Bolan Rode a white swan like the people of the Beltane, Wear your hair long, babe, you can`t go wrong. Da, da, dee, dee, da...............

But what relevance is all that to the cricketer?  At this point, Fantasy Bob's world wide audience will be thinking, 'For Goodness sake, when is he going to mention Graeme Swann, England's deeply symbolic off spinner?'

There once was an ugly duckling
FB remembers Danny Kaye's song about Graeme Swann.  For he once was an ugly duckling with feathers so stubby and brown, and all the selectors in 2000 in so many words said Quack, you get up our noses, get out of the England set up......................all through the years of 2000 to 2008 he bowled away for Notts, until he got to Chennai and KP said 'Next over, Swanny,' and he bowled, and he took 2 wickets in his first over, and they said 'See you are a Test bowler - and a very fine one indeed.'  Who's an ugly duckling?  Not Graeme Swann - 36 Tests, 153 wickets at 28.82.

But here are six other first rank players who looked like ugly ducklings on their introduction to international cricket but went on to become very fine swans indeed.

Graeme Gooch - On his Test debut against Australia at Edgbaston in 1975, Gooch got a pair, caught behind in both innings. 3 years later he returned, not such an ugly duckling, and he remains England's leading run scorer in Tests with 8900 runs in 118 Tests at 42.58.

Shane Warne - in the second innings of his 3rd Test, against Sri Lanka in Colombo in 1992, Warne had a Test career bowling average of 335. Sri Lanka closed in on a probable victory but Warne then chose his moment to be come a very fine swan indeed as he took three wickets for no run in 11 deliveries. He finished with 708 Test wickets at 25.41.

Len Hutton's first Test was at Lords in 1937 against New Zealand at the age of 20. He made made 0 and 1. An ugly duckling - but only temporarily.  In the next Test at Old Trafford, now a mature 21, he scored his first century and and the following year made 364 against Australia - 79 Tests, 6971 runs at 56.67.

Michael Holding took 0 for 127 in his debut Test, in Australia in 1975-76. He finished that series on the losing side against a dominant Australian side with just 10 wickets at 61.40. A few months later, with his feathers grown in, he took 14 wickets on a slow pitch at The Oval to demolish England.  In 60 Tests he took 249 wickets at 23.68. A very fine swan indeed.

Marvin Atapattu looked the ugliest of ducklings - his first 6 Test scores were 0 and 0, 0 and 1, and 0 and 0 (and even that one run was probably a leg-bye). In 1997 he got another chance and finally made it into double figures. No longer an ugly duckling, he finished a 90 Test career with 5502 runs at 39.02 and 16 centuries, 6 of them doubles.

Saeed Anwar got a pair on his Test debut against West Indies in Faisalabad in November 1990. He didn't win another Test cap for more than three years - but he was no longer an ugly duckling and made 169 against New Zealand in his third match. Anwar ended up with 4052 runs in 55 Tests at 45.52. 

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