India v England, 2nd Test, Mumbai, 1st day November 23, 2012

Repeats the trick for Panesar

Monty Panesar may not be a new man but his familiar methods are perfect for this pitch

Albert Einstein famously defined insanity as attempting the same action over and over again but expecting a different result. But whatever his excellence in the field of quantum physics, Albert Einstein was surely not much of a bowler.

Certainly Monty Panesar has made a career out of repeating the same action over and over and hoping for a different result. While you suspect he might not be much of a physicist - though he would put all his theories in good areas - he has, for more than a decade, made a virtue of his remarkable consistency. He runs in, puts the ball in more or less the same area, and hopes that, this time, it will either spin sharply enough to take a wicket or that the batsman will make a mistake. Some days the ball spin; some days it does not, but Panesar changes very little on any surface and against any opposition. It means that he can, on unsympathetic surfaces, be rendered somewhat lacking in subtlety. But, on pitches such as this one, he is a fine bowler.

There were rumours heading into this match that Panesar was a new man; that he had learned a few tricks from net sessions with Shane Warne and that, during the last part of the season at Sussex, he had experimented with a little more variation.

It is not so. Perhaps Panesar used the crease a little more than he has in the past but, aged 30, he is not going to learn too many new tricks. He is, by and large, the same bowler who came into the England side in 2006. It is surely time to stop expecting him to change.

Panesar's four wickets on the opening day maintain a fine run of form for England. Indeed, he went into this match having claimed five-wicket hauls in two of his three previous Tests.

With such a record, Panesar could be forgiven for questioning why he is not in the side more often. But it is his misfortune to be considered a one-dimensional cricketer in an era where all-round skills are highly valued. With a Test batting average of 5.47 he cannot claim to be anything but a specialist bowler. It is also relevant that, in his last Test, he dropped two chances including one painfully simple effort at mid-on that reprieved, of all people, Mahela Jayawardene. England, understandably, are reluctant to risk him.

It is also Panesar's misfortune to be a contemporary of Graeme Swann. While some will insist that Panesar's left-arm spin is the more potent weapon, Swann's record with the ball - 199 Test wickets at 29.79 apiece - remains slightly better than Panesar's (146 at 32.99). While Panesar took two five-wicket hauls to Swann's none when they played together in the UAE, Swann actually took only one fewer wickets in 36 fewer overs and had the better strike-rate of the pair. He is also a far better fielder and batsman.

It is hard not to warm to Panesar, though. His unabashed delight at taking a wicket is as simple and unaffected as a Labrador puppy taken for a walk. He may be one dimensional but he remains a potent weapon in the right circumstances. And this pitch, worn and tailor-made for India's spinners, really does offer the right circumstances.

It seems unlikely this will be a high-scoring game. This pitch, used three weeks ago for a four-day game, is already providing assistance to the spinners and will surely only help them more as it wears further. A couple of balls have already exploded from the pitch and batting fourth could prove desperately difficult.

For all that, though, perhaps only Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni were the victims of almost unplayable deliveries. The rest of the Indian wickets owed more to either pressure - Virat Kohli, tied down for 55 balls for his 19, drove impatiently and Virender Sehwag played across the line - or technical errors: Gautam Gambhir lost balance as he played across one and a tentative Yuvraj Singh missed a straight delivery. England, on the whole, could feel satisfied with a much tighter performance. The substitution of Panesar for Tim Bresnan was a clear success.

Yet England will be concerned at India's fightback. Having reduced India to 119 for 5 and then 169 for 6, they saw Cheteshwar Pujara and R Ashwin take the game away from them with a seventh-wicket stand of 97.

Stuart Broad, despite a decent first spell, was disappointing. Conceding five an over in these conditions is damagingly wasteful.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Naresh on November 24, 2012, 10:50 GMT

    INDIA NEED to unearth more wicket taking bowlers. Our game always suffers as we have bowlers who struggle. Right now only OHJA is taking wickets. ZAKS is off colour. Maybe Sandeep Sharma and Rishi DHawan could be tried on A-tours. We need bowlers like Sreesanth and RP Singh.No use having a batting lineup when bolwers are scarce. No wonder Dhoni complains about pitches.

  • Yasir on November 24, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    Only Pujara stood up to the England bowlers.. 5 batsmen couldnt even cross the double figure.What just happened to the great Indian batting line up.and on top of that it was India's home ground..What a performance by Indian batsmen

  • vimal on November 24, 2012, 7:15 GMT

    As of now ENG-16/O.. I think England spin department will outplay Indians..Indian spinners had not bowled atleast a single which cause trouble to english batsman.. Indians bowlers lack consistency against a good team,For sure England going to win this match... Indians should not boast the spin duous to great level.. They will do well only against weak opposition such as new zealand,west indies,bangladesh...!

  • Kulparkash on November 24, 2012, 6:02 GMT

    Quite a poorly written article trying to project the player in bad shade.Getting wickets is critical but if one is analyzing then one should not miss out on the quality of bowling.And the fact is that Panesar has bowled very well yesterday.If the comparisons are to be drawn then probably the author has missed out on the key fact that even Swann was bowling on the same pitch!

  • Dummy4 on November 24, 2012, 5:41 GMT

    @Dravid_Gravitas_Statchin_Selfishkar: can you become anymore predictable?? Remember? you 'predicted' an English win on the cards when Cook and Priror were playing well on the 4th day and now this comment... BTW, you are also coming up as being so one dimensional in your comments against SRT - sometimes it is so harsh that it is bordering on pure hatred! Did he refuse an autograph/photograph sometime? Try to grow up... oh, almost forgot to add - I like both Dravid and Sachin.

  • Ashok on November 24, 2012, 0:16 GMT

    @JG2704: Well said sir - called it like it is. Let us face it Panesar got 4 out of 6 wkts. irrespective of how he got it. He bowled very well & even Boycott praised his bowling. Without Panesar, England may not have got even Sehwag out - which means a 350 for 1 at the end of Day 1. The 3 regular bowlers Swann, Broad & Anderson just got 2 Wkts.between them while a guy coming out of almost standby category gets the cream of Indian batting out. Mind you the wkt. was helpful to the pace bowlers with lot of bounce & pace in it.Give the chap some credit for being the trump card of the England attack on Day 1.

  • rahul on November 23, 2012, 22:27 GMT

    Wow, strange that you are calling Panesar an one dimensional player on a day when he has been the pick of the Eng bowlers. I wonder why Panesar is never considered good enough by some Englishmen. I bet you if that was Swann, you would have a different take on things.

  • Ashok on November 23, 2012, 21:45 GMT

    It wasn't Albert Einstien vs. Panesar but a battle of 2 "P"s - Pujara Vs. Panesar. As you say other guys threw their wkts. away & that only SRT & Dhoni got out to pitch assisted unplayable balls. Full credit to Pujara for playing about 46 out of 90 overs bowled & recording his 2nd century in a row. Unlike Sehwag or Gambhir, Pujara is not the guy who throws away his wkt. To him the main object is to stay there and get runs in singles or 2's . England got a taste of Amla in the last series. Pujara is similar batsman who defends his wkt. first. India will look to Pujara to carry India into safety by getting more runs. Ashwin is grossly under rated batsman. He was an opening batsman for his club & can hit the ball- scored a century in first class cricket too. Hence it should not come as a surprise if he offers resistance & scores as well. Inclusion of Harbhajan was a big surprise. Let us see what he does before making any comments. India will use a spinner to share the new ball with ZAK!

  • John on November 23, 2012, 21:08 GMT

    Sorry but this seems at best a poorly timed article. Re Monty's inability in other facets - fair points but it seems whenever Monty makes such mistakes in the field they are magnified. When other fielders drop catches they seem to be washed under the carpet. And re his batting which is generally poor - folk forget that the Monty/Jimmy last wicket stand to save the 1st test was the pivotal moment in the last home Ashes series. In this game he is so far the most effective England bowler and we get an article about his limitations. Surely the time to write such an article is when he is on such an unhelpful pitch and has been unsuccessful. Oh and Broad's poor performance gets a line and a half at the end

  • Charles on November 23, 2012, 20:14 GMT

    I feel Monty has been unused during the last 18 months especially as Swanny has had some problems with his elbow . Swanny has not been on top form and I do think both a bit more rest and some serious competition will help him regain his world number 1 status again.

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