The announcement by Graeme Swann to retire in the middle of the disastrous Ashes tour of Australia has split opinion.
Experts, including Geoff Boycott and Nasser Hussain, have made it clear they believe the spinner’s decision to be a brave one. When Sir Ian Botham also says we should all wish him well, it is hard to argue.
Many former-players have followed suit, saying that if a cricket is on tour and feels it is time to call it a day, then retiring is the best option. After all, the Ashes were long gone, and Swann has given as much as he could.
But there is also a camp, including many fans, which has criticised the timing of his decision, and his subsequent actions.
Swann himself has said he has never recovered fully from the elbow problem on which he needed surgery.
Some say his last over for England – where he was smashed around the ground by Shane Watson – clearly showed it was time to go.
His England career started with him being seen as something a joke, but while he remained a ‘joker’, he turned his raw talent into something quite brilliant. His 255 career Test wickets make him England’s most prolific spin bowler ever.
A great slip fielder and useful batsman to boot, he was one of the biggest personalities in the England dressing room and often the difference between England winning and losing. No doubt England has lost a big player.
The fact he was such an integral part of such a successful team (remember England were officially the number one Test side in the world at one point) that has caused him to face so much criticism for his decision.
The problem has been compounded with his press conference comments, in which he appeared to have a dig at some of his England teammates.
This has led him to be abused on Social Media. Indeed. Swanny took to Twitter, on which he has just under 620,000 followers, to defend himself, saying his comments were not aimed at his teammates.
However, Swann was then quoted in The Sun, the newspaper for which he writes, saying: “It really annoys me when people take playing cricket for England for granted…”
Given he and the mercurial Kevin Pietersen have history, it’s no wonder a number of fans have seen his walk-out and subsequent interviews as a “betrayal” of the England team.
Whether he has been misquoted or misinterpreted, Swann’s biggest mistake has been to give so much to the media so shortly after his announcement. It has turned what should have been a well-managed process into a PR nightmare.
Newspapers always want the biggest and best reaction before rivals. With Swann being a Sun columnist, it was obviously a good outlet for him to clearly give his reasons.
But comments on other players are always headline grabbers and seem hugely out of character and out of place.
It’s difficult to imagine he did not have copy approval.
Swann is no fool and must have known that those comments, while everyone is still picking over the bones of the Ashes disaster, would have caused issues.
One of his greatest strengths as a bowler was to know when to go on the attack, and when to defend in order to keep the run-rate down.
He should have used the very same judgment here. To coin another cricket phrase, his interviews needed to be played with as straight a bat as possible. His strategy should have been to stick doggedly to giving his reasons, while at the same time announcing his full support of the team – and addressing the fans.
If he felt the need to be more outspoken at a later date, it should have come well after the Ashes tour.
Many feel Swann’s next move is a career in the media.
It will be a shame if he moves into the punditry world with fans remembering him best for the way he retired, rather than his fantastic career which came before it.