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The first point to be made here is that we’ve turned on the aggression and the verbals, and one notes a report in this morning’s ABC News digest (http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-12-24/grandmother-blames-nasty-aussies-for-swann-exit/5173420?WT.mc_id=newsmail) where Graeme Swann’s granny is blaming “unwelcoming Australians” for the lad’s decision to retire.

There are two telling comments in that report.

"I do not think they have been (made) very welcome, the team. He is not easily upset, there is something nasty happened.”

Well, you don’t (or shouldn’t) expect to be welcomed with open arms when you’re looking towards a four-series drubbing of your hosts. One doesn’t get the impression there are open arms when our blokes step onto the paddock over there, and the words Barmy and Army spring to mind here.

She’s also reported as saying "When the team went down to Australia and that young lad [Jonathan Trott] came back, there was something going wrong then,” which moves the debate over the verbals into a whole new ball game.

Now, you might think that what I’m about to say is heartless, and you may be right, but both Trott and Swann came into this series with their own issues.

With Trott the psychological issues were, to some extent, known, and how much the Australian side knew about his actual mental state doesn’t matter. He was known to be a stickler for routine, fussy about his preparation for each ball he faced and that makes him liable to a little hurry up.

If I’d been on the field when he was batting I’d have been making fairly pointed comments about time wasting, particularly if it was the morning of Day One and I was looking to get through thirty overs before lunch. 

As far as any damage inflicted is concerned, in this context I’m reminded of a sequence of photos I saw somewhere years ago. Taken at what may have been a County match they showed a batsman, possibly Colin Cowdrey, lying on the ground after being struck by an Andy Roberts bouncer. There were a number of concerned individuals clustered around the figure on the ground, but Roberts wasn’t one of them. 

Roberts was standing at the top of his run, ready to steam in for the next delivery.

Apparently, questioned about what might be interpreted as a heartless attitude, Roberts said something like “It’s my job to bowl it. It’s his job to deal with it.”

Go down the track and take a look at the damage you’ve done and you may lose some of your effectiveness. Using the short ball to get a batsman moving onto the back foot, then spearing in the yorker to clean him up is a fairly standard strategy, and if the batsman’s technique of dealing with the short stuff has him swaying back and being hit by a ball that follows him, it isn’t the bowler’s fault.

No, if he’s batting Three he has to expect pressure, and it’s the opposition’s job to deliver it.

In Swann’s case, elbow surgery had already reduced his effectiveness, and Lehmann is on record as saying the plan was to attack him in an endeavour to force Cook to bring back the quicks (and, more than likely, bowl them to the point where they’re increasingly susceptible to injury).

What is interesting, at least from where I’m sitting, is that Swann opted to come on tour knowing he wasn’t going to be able to deliver the lengthy spells he had been used to, and then, faced with the prospect of a five-nil drubbing with a major question mark over whether Broad will take the field and turn out to be fully effective, chose to make an early departure from a side that had already been considerably weakened.

But, for all that, now I’m in a position to resume watching, roll on Boxing Day…

 © Ian Hughes 2014