Every England cricket team needs a joker in its pack. A waggish statesman to keep morale buoyed during those long overseas tours. This role currently belongs to spinner Graeme Swann, and yet, speaking to ShortList, the 33-year-old reveals his comedy has even rubbed off on England training sessions.
What’s the secret to training well?
Enjoying yourself. It can get monotonous, so it’s important to keep everyone entertained. Our strength and conditioning coach, Huw Bevan, realises this, and as part of a ballistic strength session he got us to pound tractor tyres with massive hammers. It definitely has some ballistic benefits and is a good laugh.
Is training with England strict?
Well, playing football is now banned because Owais Shah put in a horror tackle on Joe Denly, nearly ending his career. But that was our fault – we knew Owais was a terrible footballer and therefore should have put him in goal.
What sports are you allowed to play?
Touch rugby, but I ban myself from playing it because I get too hot-headed. I once got myself so worked up that I suddenly had the urge to punch the ref, who happened to be coach Bevan, who happened to be a former angry rugby player, and who would’ve likely ripped my head off.
What’s the most memorable training session you’ve had?
We went sand-dune running during a tour in South Africa. When we got back to the hotel we were told by the locals that the area we ran around is known for murders and is one of the world’s most dangerous beaches.
What’s your toughest exercise?
A side plank. You lie on your side and push up on your elbow or the side of your arm, ensuring your body completely straight as you keep yourself raised for as long as possible. After 30 seconds you’ll think your sides are going to explode.
What’s the most hi-tech equipment you use for training?
We have the same reaction tests that F1 drivers use. It’s a bit Battlestar Galactica: you have to stand in front of a big board, lasers flash and you have to put the lights out by touching them. It’s all about peripheral vision.
Any tests you aren’t a fan of?
Fitness tests in general. But around two minutes after I’ve finished a fitness test, when I no longer feel sick, a euphoric feeling comes over me – similar to how you feel when finishing an exam.
Do you have any tips for gym work?
Mix things up and the time will fly. Oh, and always eat protein after your workout. When you work out, you tear your body tissue, and protein will repair this tissue and make it stronger.
Is there more pressure on cricketers to be fitter than they used to be?
As part of our contracts we have regular fitness tests and, as we play all year round, we have to be fit. We are probably the strongest and fittest team in world cricket.
What’s the one thing you love that you have to deny yourself?
Sausages – I’d have them five times a day if I could. My healthy alternative is avocados. Try having avocados with iceberg lettuce, tomato and cucumber in a salad – it’ll change your life.
How do you prepare for the mental side of the game?
If you act confident, that in itself is an act of confidence. And it makes sense to me, so I just do that.
Graeme is ambassador for Rubicon Love Cricket; rubiconexotic.com/lovecricket