'I absolutely hated my first match'
England off-spinner Graeme Swann has revealed how a sausage saved his international debut.
On the third day of Sun Sport's serialisation of The Breaks Are Off, My Autobiography, Swann revealed how for a sportsman's international debut should be a source of joy, but that he "absolutely hated my first match for England" against South Africa in 2000 on my unhappy first senior England tour."
"I was not picked in the one-day squad and, after two-and-a-half-months on the periphery during the Test series, I was packed and couldn't wait to get to the airport.
"But then, hours after being reprimanded again for missing the team bus on the final day of the Fifth Test, team manager Phil Neale told me I was required to stay on because Ashley Giles had a bad back."
'My England debut made me feel like an imposter and a fraudster'
It was truly painful news, I was absolutely devastated. Such was my mental state at the time.
"I just couldn't be bothered with that tour any longer. I'd fallen out with coach Duncan Fletcher and been punched by Darren Gough.
"I hated the team cliques — it certainly wasn't an environment to make newcomers feel welcome — and felt a bit sick watching a couple of players who would do absolutely anything, kiss anyone's behind, just to get ahead," Swann said.
"In fact, even now, I consider my real England debut to have been against Sri Lanka on October 1, 2007 — when phase two of my international career started.
"After being told I was playing, I didn't even ring home excitedly to tell my parents. My England debut made me feel like an imposter and a fraudster. We won the game and I bowled five overs for 24 runs before captain Nasser Hussain took me off, saying: "I'm putting Graeme Hick on because he doesn't turn it as much as you," Swann said.
'I was given a standing ovation'
I've never asked Nasser what he meant but, reading between the lines, I think it meant he thought I was rubbish," Swann added.
"Then, fielding on the boundary, someone threw one of those huge South African sausages and it hit me on the back of the neck.
"I picked up the piece of meat and shaped to throw it back. What you gonna f do?" one of the Afrikaans spectators goaded. I simply took a big bite and held the sausage triumphantly above my head," said Swann.
"The crowd seemed to love it and I was given a standing ovation every time I touched the ball. It was the first time I realised the power of getting the crowd on your side," the off-spinner said.