Cricket is a team game. A game that cannot be won by a single individual, though sadly has the potential to be lost by one. Following England's third successive defeat in Perth and perhaps sensing the worst ahead of England's chances in Melbourne, Graeme Swann, the man who has taken 400 international wickets and was responsible for bringing home the Ashes in 2009, decided to retire with immediate effect with just two games left to play.
As one of England's finest bowlers, Swann's sudden departure dramatically altered what was left of England's morale, leaving captain Alastair Cook under severe pressure to map out England's plan b. Having undergone three operations on his bowling elbow, Swann evidently believed that his best days were gone, however, his timing could not have been worse. Was is right for him to retire mid-series leaving England in the lurch? Could he not have battled on and stuck by his team in order to see them through to Melbourne?
Of course, it may have turned out that Swann would not have been selected for the tests against Australia in Melbourne, but the significance of having him there would have made an impact to England's spirits during their attempt to regain their Ashes glory. However, by deserting the team entirely, Swann's bombshell surely has to be a factor in why England are about to face a humiliating whitewash against Australia, as they continue to fight a losing battle against a team who clearly have the upper hand.
Last night's action during the second day of five at the Sydney Cricket ground was a sad display of a team who clearly out of options, desperately tried to attack against a side who demonstrated greater strength at a time when it mattered most. The opening hour highlighted the talent of Australia's Mitchell Johnson and Ryan Harris who played to a standard that England's bowlers couldn't match. Australia simply played too well and despite Pietersen's best efforts, scoring chances were few and far between. By the end, Australia had bundled England out for just 155, their second lowest total of the series so far, enabling them to stride ahead in their quest to whitewash England out of any last minute hopes.
The question is, would England's performance have been better had Graeme Swann been there? Could it have made a difference to have one of the game's greatest talents at their side as they fought against one of the toughest teams in the world? Surely it would have done. Although Swann previously discussed his decision to quit with Alastair Cook and England's team director, Andy Flower before broadcasting it to the media, it is clear that Flower saw the benefit in having Swann on side throughout England's Ashes hopes. Speaking after Swann's announcement, Flower commented: "I've been very proud to have had him in the side, and I know that he can retire very proudly. In saying that, I would have liked him to have seen the tour out." As, one suspects, is the consensus amongst the rest of the England team.