A rainy Sunday morning in Melbourne and the shock news that Graeme Swann, one of the best players of his generation, has retired from the game with immediate effect has hit me hard. It’s been a tough few weeks following England and today’s developments have exacerbated this.

Elizabeth Street is teeming with shoppers dodging the showers making their way towards the busy Queen Victoria Market. Still reeling from the news, I head to what has become our local cafe for a restorative Long Black to be met by the grinning Greg.

‘Bad news about Swanny’ I say. ‘Dreadful’ Greg agrees. Then he fixes me one of his trademark smiles, there’s hope heading my way somewhere in his next sentence. With Arthur Daley assuredness he drags me into his scheme. I feel like Edmund Blackadder in the eye of a gathering Baldrick cunning plan storm.

‘You know there’s only one man who can save us here don’t you?’

I know exactly who he means but magnanimously I let him finish his own point. I brace myself.

‘Tredders’.

It’s another belter. But then Greg is one of life’s optimists. When he isn’t being unfailingly positive, he’s being unfailingly loyal to one of his sports teams. Usually it’s England or Arsenal but mainly it’s Kent County Cricket Club and their underachieving, under-appreciated band of brothers.
He reserves particular affection for their erstwhile captain and jobbing England ODI player James Tredwell. On another tour in New Zealand, I lost count of the amount of times Tredwell’s name was presented as the answer to England’s problems (not that we had any back then, by the way…). I’m only surprised it’s taken Greg ten days to crowbar his beloved Tredwell in here.

The last time I saw Greg he asked me, in all seriousness, to prepare the preface to his debut book, ‘Tredwell’s Ashes’, the inside story of how, against all odds, one man inspired a nation to victory over their oldest foes. For one reason or another (but mainly because Tredwell left his position half way through the season winless and comparatively wicket-less and wasn’t even thought of, let alone picked for England) the book never saw the light of day.

‘It’s made for him’ Greg continues. ‘He’ll take Swanny’s position at second slip, bat at number four and spin us to victory in the remaining Tests.’

‘What do you think?’

Silence. Reflective silence.

Following England. You don’t have to be mad to do it.

But it helps.

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The saviour of English cricket? Err, probably not.

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