Graeme Swann: England lacked the bravery that made them world champions

Liam Plunkett
Swanny found it 'incredible' that Liam Plunkett lost his white ball contract
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Graeme Swann reflects on a sound beating for England in the first ODI, criticism of rookie spinner Matt Parkinson and rumours that Liam Plunkett is off to play cricket in the US...

"I really hope Matt doesn't start listening to everyone's opinion because spin is like scrummaging in rugby: it's a dark art that's very easy to talk about from the sideline but it's totally different learning how to do it."

'Listless' England will have been stung

Coming off the back of such a brilliant Test performance, that ODI defeat will have stung. It looks like a different sort of England team altogether. It didn't have the same bravado about it. It was a bit cautious, like a pre-season friendly for England. South Africa were very good and England by contrast were a bit listless.

Obviously not having Ben Stokes is massive because he deserved two World Cup medals with the way he played last summer. But even so, the whole point about building a team ethos and having an aura around you is that everyone is good enough and brave to play. You can't only be brave when you've got Stokes to save the day if it goes wrong. This result will be a bit of a kick up the backside for the team and they will tell themselves it was nowhere near good enough.

South Africa is tricky place to play ODI cricket. You really have to take the game to them and England never really understood that until Kevin Pietersen came along. He went out there with a swagger and an air of confidence about him that hadn't been seen since Ian Botham and he absolutely destroyed them by being ultra-aggressive and in their faces. That is how you beat South Africa.

You could argue that as World Cup winners they have a target on their back but actually playing for England around the world, you find out pretty quickly that there is an age-old stigmatism that goes back probably to the toffee-nosed days of the empire - everyone wants to beat England and teams seem to raise their game.

Let Parkinson develop

Some people have already tried to criticise Matt Parkinson for 'bowling too slowly'. For starters, no spin bowler should bowl at the same pace all the time. That's a key lesson of bowling spin. There is a pace that suits every pitch. You can't be a one-trick pony.

For me, I saw it as bowling the quickest I could while the ball was still spinning the optimum distance. When you're younger, that can take two or three overs to discover on each pitch but with experience, you pick it up quicker and quicker.

It was a different process for me than Parkinson. I got fast-tracked into the England team at a young age and then got dropped after one game. I was angry at the time but Duncan Fletcher getting rid of me was probably the best thing that ever happened to me because I had eight years in the wilderness and by the time I came back, I knew my game inside out. I didn't even really have to rediscover which pace to bowl on which pitch because I'd done it so much in county cricket that I just knew a lot of the time. That comes with time and people should let him develop as he needs to.

I really hope Matt doesn't start listening to everyone's opinion because spin is like scrummaging in rugby: it's a dark art that's very easy to talk about from the sideline but it's totally different learning how to do it.

Why shouldn't Plunkett live the American dream?

It was incredible when Pudsy lost his England contract just after winning a World Cup. The workhorses like him are always the first to be forgotten and yet they're possibly the most vital cogs in the team.

We all said that when Liam came back in, we didn't realise how many wickets he could take in the middle of the innings. Ben Stokes is the superstar, Joe Root is the pin-up boy - despite looking like the Milky Bar kid - but Pudsy did the gritty job in the middle and when he played, England won more games.

He's won a World Cup and it's not going to get any bigger than that. England aren't going to pick him for the next one, clearly, so why not go and play cricket for the USA where his wife is from? When you finish playing, you've got a long life ahead of you. We all find that out. So while you're young enough, go and have a go. I'd love to hear what happens to his accent though: I'm not sure what happens when you mix Middlesbrough and Dallas. They probably won't understand a word he says!

Graeme Swann,

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