From across the media hallway, Graeme Swann lets out a sudden shout towards the breakfast counter. “Sorry, sorry . I have spilled tea here.”
The just-retired cricketer and the latest addition to the enduringly casual cricket chat show, Test Match Special, again offers an apology when the girl in apron diligently wipes the stains on the tables and puddle below. She can’t help but be charmed and her smile gets wider when Swann says, “Whenever I spill tea, I want you to be around.”
In the canteen for a quick bite or talking about buses, birds and butterflies while watching the bat vs ball contest; England’s widely acclaimed ‘funniest cricketer’ is charming the listeners and making them smile. Blessed with a voice for radio, looks for television and a wacky sense of humour; the marketing men had been waiting, with contract papers and pen in hand, for Swann to hang his boots. Since the time the popular tour diary anchor, video blogger and tweet-world royalty retired, his phone hasn’t stopped ringing.
Before his TMS assignment here, Swann was at the theatre for the Aggers-Swanny evening, with Rahul Dravid at the pre-Test dinner, with friends at celebrity golf and after this he leaves for the West Indies for the T20 league. Before you talk about serene beaches and short working hours, he makes a weepy face. “I have to be in Caribbean, somebody’s got to do it.”
Still travelling around the world, still seen at cricket stadiums, nothing seems to have changed for the former England off-spinner. Not really, says the 35-year-old. “This morning my wife wasn’t well. So I had to get the kids ready for nursery and prepare their breakfast and drop them. It was a manic morning.” That’s a far cry from his morning in the England set up. “Then I would get up late, do things slowly and come to the ground with Jimmy (James Anderson). The pressure used to kick in at 11 o’ clock, but not anymore.”
Missing those days
For someone not known for his organisational skills, Swann misses those days when everything was taken care of. “I would pack the bag and leave it outside the room and not worry about bed and breakfast. Three days later I would get the bag and I had to just unpack it. But now I have to get the hotel organised, arrange the car and do all the things.” He does have a manager, Johnny Whitmore, who incidentally goes by the name Johnny ‘Hefner’ in his phone diary. The change of name coincided with the manager taking his star client to the ‘Playboy’ restaurant in London.
‘Leg-pulling’ doesn’t just come naturally to him, for Swann it’s a life-long pursuit that has lightened every dressing room that he continued…