• England in New Zealand 2012-13

Surgery the only option, says Swann

Andrew McGlashan in Dunedin
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Graeme Swann: "In Queenstown, just before the game, I started to feel an unusual pain that I hadn't felt since before the last operation and it got worse during that game" © Getty Images
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Graeme Swann said he had no option but to go under the knife again on his right elbow if he wanted to extend his England career.

Swann found out the extent of the problem that involves floating bone fragments - which he has managed for four years since his last surgery in 2009 - on the morning of the first Test against New Zealand in Dunedin. His concerns had been raised during the warm-up match in Queestown, where he bowled 42 overs, and scans taken after arriving in Dunedin were then viewed by US specialist Dr Shawn O'Driscoll, who said that further surgery was now required.

"I know if I don't have the surgery it's more or less curtains," he said. "I'm assured the surgery is relatively simple, so touch wood it will be and I'll wake up on the other end and everything will be great.

"I said yesterday that I was trying to go through my whole career without needing surgery again, but the specialist came back and said something needed to be done. So be it. It's a huge year for English cricket and a huge year for me, so if this means taking a more active part in it then it's something I have to do."

Swann will travel to Rochester, Minnesota, within the next week and still harbours hopes of being back in action for the return visit of New Zealand in May ahead of the Champions Trophy, which is then followed by the first of the back-to-back Ashes series in July. In 2009, Swann had surgery following the Test series against West Indies in the Caribbean that finished in March and was back in time for the return series in May of that year

Although Swann said he would only have a clear indication of his recovery period after meeting with the specialist, he felt confident that he would not be sidelined for too long after his experiences in 2009. He has been assured that the state of his elbow now is not as bad as four years ago when he had said, "it was like a bomb had gone off in there."

"In layman's terms it needs a bit of a clean-out. It doesn't seem anywhere near as dire as last time around. I knew something wasn't right [in Queenstown] as I couldn't put an extra snap on the ball when I was bowling. I like to turn the ball a lot and I was only 70-80 percent fit.

"It all came about quite suddenly to be honest," he added. "I've struggled on and off for the last four years but it never really manifested itself into a dire predicament for me. But in Queenstown, just before the game, I started to feel an unusual pain that I hadn't felt since before the last operation and it got worse during that game. I raised by fears with the doctor and Andy [Flower] and the scans showed there had been deterioration."

Swann did admit to misgivings as he prepared for his long trip to the USA followed by a rehabilitation programme that will involve using a CPM machine - a device that keeps the arm constantly moving day and night. The machine drove Swann "around the bend" in 2009, and Tim Bresnan has been experiencing it recently following his elbow surgery.

"You just never know with surgery, do you?" Swann said. "And the fact you are having surgery means you have a pretty serious injury so, I was hoping I'd get through my playing days. I want to play as much a part in this year as possible.

"It's so fresh and just landed on me. Two days ago, I was preparing for a Test and now I'm flying to Rochester to get sorted out. I'll be relieved once it's done but I'm a bit apprehensive now because I don't like general anesthetics."

This was the first time Swann had missed a Test through injury - the other three matches he has been absent for since his debut in late 2008 were for tactical reasons - although his workload in limited-overs cricket is being managed. He missed the series in India during January and the Twenty20s in New Zealand before returning for the 50-over leg of this tour. However, he did not indicate a desire to retire from one-day cricket after the latest news.

"The whole point of the operation is that it will extend my career," he said. "If it gives me a chance to keep playing for England for longer than I would have had then it's great news."

It all means that for the New Zealand tour, Monty Panesar becomes England's senior spinner having yet to bowl a competitive delivery on the trip while James Tredwell, the Kent offspinner, is joining the squad. If the outcome for Swann is not as positive as he hopes, either of them could yet be playing a key part in England's year.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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