Bob Woolmer says left-armer is the 'bee's knees' July 31, 2006

Fletcher stays cool over Panesar

Cricinfo staff

The front page of the sports section of The Sunday Telegraph following England's win © The Sunday Telegraph
While the British media could hardly contain their praise of Monty Panesar in the aftermath of the Old Trafford Test, it fell to Duncan Fletcher, England's coach, to pour cold water on the celebrations.

"Monty bowled very well, no doubt about it," Fletcher told reporters. "The wicket really suited the spinner and quite often you get on a wicket like that and try too hard. He bowled a good line and length and spun the ball on occasions a great deal."

But he then made it clear that Ashley Giles, who has not bowled a ball in anger all summer, was not out of the Ashes reckoning. "Let's have a look at Monty when he bowls on other wickets and let's make a decision when Gilo is ready," Fletcher said. "It was a good wicket for Monty to bowl on and he bowled damned well.

"But what wickets are we going to play on? Would we need Monty on a green top? We have to look at the balance of the side and it's very important that we look at Monty on wickets that don't help him as much as it did today."

"I think Monty is a very good bowler, but we have to produce 11 players who can produce two of the departments efficiently, whoever is playing for England," said Fletcher. "I still have slight reservations about his batting and his fielding, but he's an outstanding bowler and doing a job for us because there's no-one else at the moment who can fulfill that role. He needs to work hard at it because if you work hard at your fielding you can really improve that a great deal. It's not easy to turn you into a No.6 batter, but I just think you need to work at those two areas." Giles, capable of taking some sharp catches in the gully, had developed into a handy lower-order batsman with an average just over 20.

Fletcher's remarks were in direct contrast to those of Bob Woolmer, the Pakistan coach and a former England allrounder. "I thought Panesar's performance was terrific," he enthused on Saturday. "He has loop, in-dip, spins the ball, beats people on both sides of the bat without actually having the doosra.

"He is a very fine prospect. If he bowls like this, he could do well in Australia, too, because the wickets are more bouncy there. He's the proper article, the bee's knees."

Woolmer also dismissed claims that Panesar was something of a figure of fun. "The crowd might think he's a bit of a joke but we don't think of him like that. What the crowd should do is take him seriously because he's right up there with the classic English spinners. People laughed at his fielding but that looks like it has improved."

Meanwhile Giles, speaking on BBC Radio's Sportsweek programme, admitted he had a fight on his hands. "Monty is the man in possession and I have to get my place back - that's the danger if you do get injured. My recovery is going OK, it is just frustrating. I cannot bowl and cannot run but the rehab is going well. It is going to be another four or five weeks until we reach that point." Giles also paid a generous tribute to Panesar, saying: "Monty is a brilliant technician and works extremely hard. He is able to land the ball in good areas and put batsmen under pressure."