Graeme Swann has called time, with no regrets, on his “magnificent journey” as an England cricketer.
Swann’s shock retirement from the game, in the middle of an Ashes series already lost, is with immediate effect – ruling him out of Melbourne’s Boxing Day Test.
The 34-year-old reasons that, where he was once a cornerstone of three successive Ashes series victories, he can no longer make an impact when his team need him the most.
He departs with Australia in an unassailable 3-0 lead and the urn gone, after England set out with high hopes of winning it for a second time in six months.
But Swann is convinced he has got his decisions and his timing right, to try in the first instance for a fourth consecutive Ashes and then to accept he can no longer serve the Test team properly.
After three operations on his bowling elbow, the most recent last February in an attempt to nurse his career through 10 Ashes Tests in six months, he has fallen short of the standards he demands.
He nonetheless finishes with an England off-spinner’s record 255 Test wickets, above the great Jim Laker and behind only Derek Underwood among slow bowlers of any variety for his country.
Swann’s last seven were hard-earned, and costly at 80 runs each, but his inevitable mixed feelings at leaving on a low note after a failed campaign are far outweighed by a conviction that he had to be part of England’s attempt to beat Australia again.
He said: “At the end of the Oval Test, I thought, ‘Why don’t I just stop now?’ I knew more or less that the time was coming.
“But then I’d never have forgiven myself if I hadn’t come out here and given it a crack.”
Swann’s international career has been in two parts, the first containing a single one-day international cap as a 20-year-old before he fell out of favour with then coach Duncan Fletcher, the second a stellar and fulfilling 60 Tests and 117 more limited-overs matches.
“It’s easy to wish you’d gone out taking 10-for in your last game, and been hoisted on to people’s shoulders as you walk off,” he said.
“But I look back and I don’t regret a single day I’ve had for England – even the early ones with Mr Fletcher. They’re all part and parcel of the magnificent journey I’ve been on.”
He has found it tough to walk away, and knows adjusting to life after England will not be easy.
“This England team has been my family for the best part of a decade,” he added. “You spend so much time with guys you absolutely love to pieces.”
The worry for England must be that Swann’s retirement is the first of several as a team of world-beaters begins to show its age.
Swann is unsure if he is leading the way for a clutch of other thirtysomethings. He said: “It’s no secret a lot of the guys are getting on a bit, into their 30s, so maybe a couple more will follow.
“I’ve spoken to Jimmy Anderson – I know he’s not doing it.
“Sport is cyclical... you do have to have new blood coming in.
“We’ve got very exciting young players. Ben Stokes showed last week what a great player he is... I think you could almost build a team around people like that.”
Monty Panesar is expected to replace Swann as England’s spinner at the MCG.