The timing was right for Swann’s departure

The Swann brothers in conversation
The Swann brothers in conversation

Saturday night’s announcement that Graeme Swann was retiring from first-class cricket brought the curtain down on the career of one of this country’s finest cricketers.

The bare statistics will show, at international level anyhow, 255 Test wickets, 104 in one-day internationals and 51 in their Twenty20 equivalent, but they don’t come close to telling the whole story.

For want of a better description, Graeme poured cold water over the theory that traditional finger spin couldn’t be successful at the top level.

Being able to operate in both an attacking and defensive role, he was at the forefront of England’s rise to the summit of the world rankings and his departure will leave a gaping hole in the side that won’t be easily filled.

I’ve been asked on many an occasion, have I been surprised at how well Graeme has done and the answer has always been the same - not surprised by the fact that he has been successful, but by how dramatic and consistent the success has been.

The talented but impatient bowler that made his name at Northamptonshire became, via a move up the M1 to Nottinghamshire, one of the world’s best due to a combination of cricketing maturity and skill refinement to the point where his presence in the national side was deemed to be essential to any potential success.

Twice England have travelled to Australia in the past three years with Graeme held up to be the pivotal figure in the series on both occasions.

Whether or not his influence was overplayed, that would have been unthinkable not so long ago but that was the extent to which his stock had risen.

I knew months ago that he probably wouldn’t appear in another limited-overs game for England and fully expected the Sydney Test in January to be his last.

A mid-series farewell may be far from ideal, and judging by some of the nonsense that has been spouted you would think Graeme had left a battlefield halfway through an offensive, but to leave when you want to is the scenario the majority of sportsmen would prefer, so every other detail, when it comes down to it, is irrelevant.

If your mind is elsewhere then your body will generally follow suit and with a right elbow that has undergone two serious operations, the timing was right for the individual who really matters.