Sportsdesk Comment with Andy Bloomfield: Swann sails away with England struggling

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I have to admit that I was a little shocked that Graeme Swann announced his retirement this weekend with England having just lost the Ashes with two Tests still to play.

The spinner was one of several established England players who had been rumoured to be under pressure as calls were being made for changes in the team for the Fourth Test, which started in the early hours of Boxing Day, with keeper Matt Prior another who has been singled out as one whose form is waning.

Swann (below) has been the top spinner for England for many years, but the Aussie batsmen seem to have really gone after him this tour.

With 255 wickets at an average of 29.96, Swann retired as England’s second most successful Test spinner, behind Derek Underwood, who took 297 in 86 Test over a 16-year spell with England.

The Nottinghamshire player, who is also a cracking second slip fielder and is quite handy with the bat on his day, is 35 and has a young family, so many may sympathise with his reasons for stepping aside and allowing someone else to take over as the spinner for the rest of this tour and the trip to Sri Lanka and India in the new year.

Monty Panesar will probably slot in for the final two Tests in Melbourne and Sydney, although James Tredwell, who has played once for England in the Test format, and Ben Stokes’ Durham teammate Scott Borthwick have also been added to the squad for the rest of the tour Down Under.

There are rumours going around suggesting that Swann may well have been told he was dropped for the Fourth Test - or both Tests - and his retirement was brought forward due to this.

I was expecting him to retire at the end of this tour as his powers did seem to be on the decline, but to jump ship mid-tour seems odd and has caused a lot of England fans to lash out at the spinner.

Off the field Swann was always a lively, cheerful character and I would imagine the changing room will be a lot duller for his absence, as when things are going against you the team often needs a morale officer to rally the troops.

Prior, James Anderson and Kevin Pietersen are all approaching stages in their career when they could be weighing up if it is time for them to join Swann in retirement.

This could well be the end of an era for England as these players are all world-class talents, despite their failure to find form in the first three Tests of this tour.

The position of coach Andy Flower is also being questioned in the wake of the Ashes defeat, but hopefully England will resist making massive changes as the likes of Ian Bell, Joe Root, Stuart Broad and more recently Stokes, have all showed there is a future for the team.