London: Former England stars Michael Vaughan and Geoffrey Boycott expressed their admiration for spin bowler Graeme Swann on Sunday after he abruptly announced his retirement from the sport.
Swann, 34, bows out with immediate effect, meaning he will play no part in the final two Tests of the Ashes tour of Australia, when England will bid to restore pride after going 3-0 down and surrendering the urn. Former England bowler Derek Pringle criticised the timing of Swann's decision, writing on Twitter that the off-spinner "should have seen the tour out as a senior player".
However, former captain Vaughan said that Swann's recent struggles with an elbow problem, which has seen him undergo three operations, suggested that he had reached the point of no return. "There will be many cricket fans who have travelled over saying, 'Wait a minute, you signed up to play the whole of the Ashes tour yet you're doing one three games in,'" Vaughan told BBC Radio 5 Live.
"But I think it's more the mind. I think the elbow problem has just triggered the mind to suggest that enough's enough." Vaughan admitted that he was "surprised" by Swann's timing, but dismissed the suggestion that his former team-mate had put himself before the team.
"Those that say he's being selfish, must take into consideration that he's giving up an England contract of nine months that is a lot of money, so he's throwing a lot of money away by making the decision now," Vaughan said. "I don't think he's been selfish. I think he's done it for his own mind. He thinks the team are better off without him."
Former opener Boycott praised Swann's honesty for admitting that he was past his best. "He hasn't been right the whole series, he hasn't been the Graeme Swann we know," Boycott said. "He's better than his figures. I think it's very honest. It's very difficult to get up for top-class sport when you're not bowling your best.
"I think it's very honest to say, 'Hey I've shot it, that's it, I'm not going to be any good any more.' It takes a brave man to do that." Boycott added: "He's nothing to be ashamed about, he's nothing to be embarrassed about. He's been an excellent performer for England and I think he can hold his head up high."
With 255 Test victims to his name, Swann is his country's most successful off-spinner and former England coach David Lloyd praised his dedication to the team ethic. Writing on Twitter, Lloyd said: "Swann retirement... Been a brilliant bowler in International cricket. Not about individual records for him."
Meanwhile, Mike Newell, director of cricket at Swann's county Nottinghamshire, said Swann's reputation as a joker belied a meticulous approach to his profession. "He joined us with a reputation for not taking things seriously, but I found him to be very thoughtful about his cricket and very committed to improving his game," Newell told the Nottinghamshire website.
"Swanny has been a dominant performer in Test cricket for six years and it will leave a huge gap in the England team because there is no outstanding spinner quite ready to fill the place that he will leave."