December 18, 2008

Monty's mountain

Panesar may be a talented bowler but at present he is no more than a moderate cricketer
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Gone missing: when the chips are down, Monty sometimes fails to turn up © Getty Images
 

Finding slivers of cloud amid all the blue skies conjured up by that marvellously enriching, life-affirming Test in Chennai requires a degree in curmudgeonry. Indeed, it may well be the most ungrateful act since Eve offered Adam a bite of her apple and he had the gall to insist on subjecting her to the first-ever sexual experiment. All the same, I wouldn't like to have shared a room with Monty Panesar on Monday night. Not with all that tossing and turning. Not with all those nightmares about spoilsports called Virender, Sachin and Yuvraj.

Put yourself in his shoes. The opposition, for all their rampant self-belief, are chasing more than any side has ever made in the fourth innings to win a Test in India. To be precise, no fewer than 111 more, i.e. nearly 40%. The pitch is turning. There's platefuls of rough on both sides of the wicket. You're the senior spinner. Andrew Strauss might think he's a shoo-in for Man of the Match, but hell, it ain't over till the slim man zings.

So much for scripts. All but bereft of guile or variation, the slim man bowled like an automaton and went wicketless in 27 overs. He couldn't even blame his fielders for fluffing chances because he didn't create any. Most of the day was spent bowling fruitlessly and nauseatingly over the wicket and into the rough; unlike Ashley Giles, his much-maligned predecessor, this suited his skills and modus operandi about as much as an Eskimo suits a bikini. Perhaps even more gallingly, he was outbowled by Graeme Swann, his junior partner, a chap making his debut at this level. It was a dispiriting sight for those who had got up at the crack to cheer England on to the victory their overall performance deserved. Being Monty Panesar must have been even more dispiriting.

Badmouthing Panesar is not something an Englishman does lightly. Like those other Great British Montys (Uncle Monty from Withnail and I, Monty Python) he commands enormous affection, and rightly so. Being the first Sikh to represent the nation is no small achievement. If an ad agency was commissioned to create a campaign designed to shame the British National Party, they could do a lot worse than sign up the finest cricketer ever to hail from Luton. The fact that a professional cricketer can be such an awful fielder provides all the more reason for a nation of underdog-lovers to cherish him. Indeed, referring to him by his surname, instead of "Monty", almost feels like a crime against the realm.

The headline news, moreover, remains nothing if not encouraging. As I write, Panesar stands 13th in the world rankings, behind only Muttiah Muralitharan, Harbhajan Singh and Daniel Vettori among spinners. With 117 victims at 32.58 to date from 34 matches, he is surely destined to become only the second English twirler to bag 200 Test victims. Those who stubbornly refuse to classify Derek Underwood's unique blend of molto-allegro left-armers as slow bowling, or even spin, might argue that Panesar will soon be in a class of one.

Among England spinners with 100-plus wickets in Tests since the First World War, only Jim Laker (62.1), Wilfred Rhodes (64.1) and Johnny Wardle (64.6) have bettered Panesar's strike-rate of 68.1, and all three had the advantage of bowling oodles more overs as well as playing in eras when pitches were much more inclined to decay. If we bring the comparisons to a contemporary plane, Panesar's record looks even rosier. Giles, an invaluable if sorely underrated core member of the attack for the first half of the decade, had a better strike-rate than Phil Edmonds, John Emburey, Ray Illingworth, Fred Titmus and Phil Tufnell, but while he and Panesar share the same economy-rate (2.86 runs per over), Giles' average (40.60) and strike-rate (85.1) both whimper in the distance.

Crunch the numbers a little more assiduously, though, and the results are not uniformly flattering. Predictably, inevitably, Panesar's average in the opposition's second innings is much lower than it is in the first - 61 wickets at 29.47 compared with 56 at 35.98. However, his strike-rate in the fourth innings is 74.1, some way below the 60.05 he maintains in the third. Just when a spinner is meant to have the upper hand - and especially in these days of shorter concentration spans and a disinclination to defend - he has all too often gone missing, netting 23 victims at 35.13 compared with 38 at 26.05 in the third innings.

 
 
There are times, in fact, when you get the distinct impression that the contents of the M column matter more to him than those of the W
 

He fares considerably better when bowling in the first innings of a game, when batsmen are inclined to be more cautious, requiring 81.3 balls for each strike when England bat first, to 53.3 when they field first. He also bowls significantly worse in the first Test of a series, wherein his strike-rate of 86.6 is nearly 20 balls per wicket higher than at any other stage of a rubber. Then again, this should not be all that surprising. As his impotence in India's second innings so vividly demonstrated, this is one bowler who suffers more than most from the truncation of tours. He needs to bowl to find rhythm; without plenty of overs under his belt, he goes into games, if not naked then certainly without anything like sufficient clothing to ward off catching a cold.

All of which points to a faintly depressing conclusion: when the pressure is on, when England expects, Panesar seldom comes up to the mark. But it is not that simple. It never is.

On Monday, to be fair, he was confronted by batsmen - especially Sachin Tendulkar and, more surprisingly, Yuvraj Singh - who played him with considerable expertise, keeping their front pads well inside the line and hence minimising the possibility of adding to Panesar's extensive list of front-foot lbw conquests. One admiring ex-international spinner told me he thought the tactic was "very sophisticated indeed".

Discussing Panesar with a coach and former county twirler who has been watching him since he was a 16-year-old "freak" at Bedford Modern school brought many a telling insight. "He was phenomenon back then - freakishly accurate, good enough to go straight into a county first XI. It didn't matter what the pitch was like.

"He has fantastic natural pace, which is his prime asset. When he bowls well and batsmen play him either defensively or in all-out attack mode, he eats them. He gets the ball 'on the dance floor' relentlessly, has three or four men up for a catch and bowls for half a mistake - bat-pad or lbw. When they go for him he sets four or five back on the boundary, two catchers, and waits for them to hole out. He bowls so accurately, he doesn't need men saving singles - batsmen either block him or bash him."

That, though, was not India's approach on Monday. Inspired by Tendulkar's deft and shrewd example, insulated from the need for extravagances by Virender Sehwag's flying start, and aided by Kevin Pietersen's curious field placings (what, pray, were the odds on the Little Master carving to deep point?), the batsmen were quite content to pick out the gaps and pick up the singles, keep the strike rotating and tick down the target.

Tactics like this appear to unnerve Panesar. He doesn't like being knocked around, doesn't like it when he can't keep a batsman in his clutches for more than two balls in a row. Nor is he overly fond of left-handers - he bowls too many balls inside the line of the rough - hence the supple ease with which Yuvraj played him. There are times, in fact, when you get the distinct impression that the contents of the M column matter more to him than those of the W.


Michael Vaughan reportedly found Panesar frustrating to captain © Getty Images
 

With Giles now a national selector, advice, presumably, cannot be lacking. The problem seems to be that Panesar is not so much a poor listener as a shallow thinker. Why else would he ignore all those incessant suggestions that he vary his pace more, and bowl slower? One vaunted ex-practitioner of the southpaw arts told me he reckoned Panesar bowls too fast to warrant going over the wicket; the slower you bowl in that context, the more time the batsman has to think about sweeping, a shot fraught with risk unless essayed by an Andy Flower - or, for that matter, the England batting coach's latest protégé, Andrew Strauss. It is surely not insignificant that Michael Vaughan, as a captain, found Panesar frustrating. Apparently he would refuse to speak to him until the bowler had worked out the pace the conditions required.

For all his popularity, Panesar often cuts an isolated figure, immersed in a world of his own, oblivious to the state of the game and the way its demands can alter. "He has never managed his own bowling - or aspired to, ever," believes our spin coach. "He has never immersed himself in a game because of that. That's why, when he's bowling, it is all about how he is feeling and never about what else might be happening. He is a naturally gifted bowler. He is a moderate cricketer."

Shane Warne put it best. Panesar hasn't played 30-odd Tests: he's played the same Test 30-odd times. But he's also very young for an international spinner. His thirties are some way off. He could have another decade on the clock. If he does, Murali and Warne might have to watch out. It is not all that inconceivable that the overall Test wicket-taking record could yet be his. But first he must become a thinking cricketer and a proper team player, as opposed to merely a gifted and natural bowler.

Reminding himself of an eternal verity, that the art of bowling slow lies in the slow as well as the spin, would certainly be a step in the general vicinity of the right direction.

Rob Steen is a sportswriter and senior lecturer in sports journalism at the University of Brighton

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY scritty on | December 20, 2008, 20:01 GMT

    @Neil Cameron.

    It's not a brilliant metaphor, but the fruit is dependant on the translation, and the allegory with sex has always been, at least, implicit.

    Monty ? This may be the boot up the bump he needs to develop. Too many more displays like this and he will go the other way. It's fair to compare him with whoever you like. When I first saw Warne (I think it was his forst test) I seriously doubted he'd even get picked again (check the stats - but from memory they were some way below "ordinary").

    Yes I finished a sentance with 3 punctuations - one more than the writers guild seems happy with. Mr Cameron...over to you for rebuttal.

  • POSTED BY StJohn on | December 19, 2008, 13:40 GMT

    Monty's general figures are pretty good, but Swann always looked more likely to take wickets in Chennai. The commentators during the Test said Monty needed to vary his pace, to bowl slower to give the batsmen more time to think and the ball more chance to grip, etc. This article reiterates those points, all of which are right. I think Andrew Miller also once commented in a Cricinfo article that "the absence of an arm ball is a crime against [Monty's] craft". Again, spot on. Let's just hope Monty learns, or someone takes the time to teach/tell him this basic stuff. More generally, the bowling selections for this two-Test series in India were a little unimaginative. ICL issues aside, I'd like to see the England selectors take a gamble and pick Saqlain Mushtaq, who is now the best England qualified spinner. And as for the fast bowling, Harmison and Anderson are good on the right pitches, but Hoggard and Simon Jones would probably have been more successful on the Test leg of this tour.

  • POSTED BY Aditya_mookerjee on | December 19, 2008, 2:24 GMT

    I seriously did not entertain the perception, that the 'Monty', in Monty Panesar, was inspired by the 'Monty', in Monty Python. Monty makes a great Britisher. He is as unusual as an Indian Lotus, existing in a pond in Luton. What is more unusual, is that he is compared to that quintessential Britisher, Monty Python. May the memories of the two Monty's continue to spread happiness, and belonging in Great Britain. May there be not another Monty Panesar, and no other Monty Python.

  • POSTED BY SriHarshaChoudary on | December 19, 2008, 2:09 GMT

    I had really hard time to understand the first few sentences of this topic. Pls write in a language where a common man can understand!

  • POSTED BY itsmeagain on | December 18, 2008, 22:47 GMT

    Hmmmmm - a bowler who doesn't set his own field. Therein lies the problem. Monty is unable to think beyond bowling the same delivery over and over again. It worked at the start of his career but now - like batsmen and bowlers alike - he's been found out. And his rather naive appealing for LBW isn't going to win him any umpiring friends. No improvement seen over the last thirty odd tests he's played and none likely over the next thirty unless advice sought and heeded. Get Phil Edmonds on the case.

  • POSTED BY Doubleheader on | December 18, 2008, 18:45 GMT

    England lost that test in the first 8 overs bowl by Harmisson and Anderson. They spray the ball all over the place. Sehwag scored 60 from cut shots alone in the backward point area. KP should have opened his bowling attack with Flintoff, give Anderson one over and introduced either Monty or Swan. It was bad captaincy and an error in strategy. He needed to contain Sehwag with the remaining overs he had left. Those 80 0r 90 runs and the pace at which there were scored hurt England badly and helped set up the win for India. This was an error in judgement on Peterson's part. How could you not give Flintoff the ball in a situation like that? The opening bowlers were giving batting practice to Sehwag and Gambir.

  • POSTED BY EasternStar on | December 18, 2008, 18:28 GMT

    I've heard Shane Warne's 30 test quoted til death. I think til he said it noone else was picking up on these things about Monty. He should be judged on his test record overall. When that dips, he should be dropped. Simple as. At the moment it's good enough to justify his selection for this series.

  • POSTED BY jalps on | December 18, 2008, 17:34 GMT

    I was dissapointed to see that the following figures (taken from Statsguru) seem to have been missed by the author:

    Overs Runs Wkts Ave SR 5 10 in Asia 299.0 887 16 55.43 112.1 0 0 in Europe 818.1 2215 80 27.68 61.3 6 1 in Oceania 212.0 711 21 33.85 60.5 2 0

    Essentially, Monty hasn't done well in the subcontinent. Giles, by contrast, has a notably better average in Asia than elsewhere (despite only taking 1/112 in Bangladesh). The best explanation I can think of for this is that the pitches don't suit his style of bowling. Consider his best ground in England, Old Trafford with 25 wickets @ 17, and Australia, the WACA with 8 wickets @ 30. He does well on fast, bouncy, pitches; don't expect him to do well in India.

  • POSTED BY JAZ_SINGH on | December 18, 2008, 17:17 GMT

    LOL 'KATRI' i like the end bit of your comment. 'IM BEING GENEROUS NOT COMPARING HIM TO YUVRAJ'. Thats funny. Monty is a good spinner for english standards but not very good otherwise. People like Gilchrist, Sachin and Sehwag have been able to hammer him everywhere. Monty does not have any variation such as a top spinner, the doosra which he really needs to become successful. There is no way he will ever be the leading wicket taker. Batsmen struggled at first to pick him because hes left arm but now they know he bowls the same offspin ball every over. I cant see him threaten batsmen in the future. He should start thinking of becoming a batsmen as England do not have decent one bar Kevin in their side

  • POSTED BY Nipun on | December 18, 2008, 16:50 GMT

    To be fair,Monty's stats-117 wickets from 34 tests is comparable to Mohammad Rafique's 100 wickets from 33 tests.& Rafique bowled in a single innings in most of his matches,with 5-wicket hauls against almost all teams he played against.Also,Rafique never had someone who could partner him & keep it tight on one end,like Muralidaran has Vaas.Plus,Rafique had a test average of 20 with a test century to his name,whereas Monty can't bat at all!It's so surprising to see Monty get so much attention,what Vettori,Monty still has some way to go to surpass Rafique.In Chennai,even Yuvraj was a class apart from him.Right now,Shakib Al Hasan is the 2nd best left-arm spinner in the world after Vettori,taking 11 wickets in 2 innings against SA in SA,& also taking 10 wickets against New Zealand in 3 innings. Monty should first learn that if you keep on bowling @ 90-95 kph ALL the time,then you're meat & drink in international cricket.....

  • POSTED BY scritty on | December 20, 2008, 20:01 GMT

    @Neil Cameron.

    It's not a brilliant metaphor, but the fruit is dependant on the translation, and the allegory with sex has always been, at least, implicit.

    Monty ? This may be the boot up the bump he needs to develop. Too many more displays like this and he will go the other way. It's fair to compare him with whoever you like. When I first saw Warne (I think it was his forst test) I seriously doubted he'd even get picked again (check the stats - but from memory they were some way below "ordinary").

    Yes I finished a sentance with 3 punctuations - one more than the writers guild seems happy with. Mr Cameron...over to you for rebuttal.

  • POSTED BY StJohn on | December 19, 2008, 13:40 GMT

    Monty's general figures are pretty good, but Swann always looked more likely to take wickets in Chennai. The commentators during the Test said Monty needed to vary his pace, to bowl slower to give the batsmen more time to think and the ball more chance to grip, etc. This article reiterates those points, all of which are right. I think Andrew Miller also once commented in a Cricinfo article that "the absence of an arm ball is a crime against [Monty's] craft". Again, spot on. Let's just hope Monty learns, or someone takes the time to teach/tell him this basic stuff. More generally, the bowling selections for this two-Test series in India were a little unimaginative. ICL issues aside, I'd like to see the England selectors take a gamble and pick Saqlain Mushtaq, who is now the best England qualified spinner. And as for the fast bowling, Harmison and Anderson are good on the right pitches, but Hoggard and Simon Jones would probably have been more successful on the Test leg of this tour.

  • POSTED BY Aditya_mookerjee on | December 19, 2008, 2:24 GMT

    I seriously did not entertain the perception, that the 'Monty', in Monty Panesar, was inspired by the 'Monty', in Monty Python. Monty makes a great Britisher. He is as unusual as an Indian Lotus, existing in a pond in Luton. What is more unusual, is that he is compared to that quintessential Britisher, Monty Python. May the memories of the two Monty's continue to spread happiness, and belonging in Great Britain. May there be not another Monty Panesar, and no other Monty Python.

  • POSTED BY SriHarshaChoudary on | December 19, 2008, 2:09 GMT

    I had really hard time to understand the first few sentences of this topic. Pls write in a language where a common man can understand!

  • POSTED BY itsmeagain on | December 18, 2008, 22:47 GMT

    Hmmmmm - a bowler who doesn't set his own field. Therein lies the problem. Monty is unable to think beyond bowling the same delivery over and over again. It worked at the start of his career but now - like batsmen and bowlers alike - he's been found out. And his rather naive appealing for LBW isn't going to win him any umpiring friends. No improvement seen over the last thirty odd tests he's played and none likely over the next thirty unless advice sought and heeded. Get Phil Edmonds on the case.

  • POSTED BY Doubleheader on | December 18, 2008, 18:45 GMT

    England lost that test in the first 8 overs bowl by Harmisson and Anderson. They spray the ball all over the place. Sehwag scored 60 from cut shots alone in the backward point area. KP should have opened his bowling attack with Flintoff, give Anderson one over and introduced either Monty or Swan. It was bad captaincy and an error in strategy. He needed to contain Sehwag with the remaining overs he had left. Those 80 0r 90 runs and the pace at which there were scored hurt England badly and helped set up the win for India. This was an error in judgement on Peterson's part. How could you not give Flintoff the ball in a situation like that? The opening bowlers were giving batting practice to Sehwag and Gambir.

  • POSTED BY EasternStar on | December 18, 2008, 18:28 GMT

    I've heard Shane Warne's 30 test quoted til death. I think til he said it noone else was picking up on these things about Monty. He should be judged on his test record overall. When that dips, he should be dropped. Simple as. At the moment it's good enough to justify his selection for this series.

  • POSTED BY jalps on | December 18, 2008, 17:34 GMT

    I was dissapointed to see that the following figures (taken from Statsguru) seem to have been missed by the author:

    Overs Runs Wkts Ave SR 5 10 in Asia 299.0 887 16 55.43 112.1 0 0 in Europe 818.1 2215 80 27.68 61.3 6 1 in Oceania 212.0 711 21 33.85 60.5 2 0

    Essentially, Monty hasn't done well in the subcontinent. Giles, by contrast, has a notably better average in Asia than elsewhere (despite only taking 1/112 in Bangladesh). The best explanation I can think of for this is that the pitches don't suit his style of bowling. Consider his best ground in England, Old Trafford with 25 wickets @ 17, and Australia, the WACA with 8 wickets @ 30. He does well on fast, bouncy, pitches; don't expect him to do well in India.

  • POSTED BY JAZ_SINGH on | December 18, 2008, 17:17 GMT

    LOL 'KATRI' i like the end bit of your comment. 'IM BEING GENEROUS NOT COMPARING HIM TO YUVRAJ'. Thats funny. Monty is a good spinner for english standards but not very good otherwise. People like Gilchrist, Sachin and Sehwag have been able to hammer him everywhere. Monty does not have any variation such as a top spinner, the doosra which he really needs to become successful. There is no way he will ever be the leading wicket taker. Batsmen struggled at first to pick him because hes left arm but now they know he bowls the same offspin ball every over. I cant see him threaten batsmen in the future. He should start thinking of becoming a batsmen as England do not have decent one bar Kevin in their side

  • POSTED BY Nipun on | December 18, 2008, 16:50 GMT

    To be fair,Monty's stats-117 wickets from 34 tests is comparable to Mohammad Rafique's 100 wickets from 33 tests.& Rafique bowled in a single innings in most of his matches,with 5-wicket hauls against almost all teams he played against.Also,Rafique never had someone who could partner him & keep it tight on one end,like Muralidaran has Vaas.Plus,Rafique had a test average of 20 with a test century to his name,whereas Monty can't bat at all!It's so surprising to see Monty get so much attention,what Vettori,Monty still has some way to go to surpass Rafique.In Chennai,even Yuvraj was a class apart from him.Right now,Shakib Al Hasan is the 2nd best left-arm spinner in the world after Vettori,taking 11 wickets in 2 innings against SA in SA,& also taking 10 wickets against New Zealand in 3 innings. Monty should first learn that if you keep on bowling @ 90-95 kph ALL the time,then you're meat & drink in international cricket.....

  • POSTED BY NYSIKH on | December 18, 2008, 15:27 GMT

    Leave him alone. None of the spinners were effective in the Chennai test because of the flat pitch. None of the other bowlers were effective either. All of the bowlers were strugling. It takes time to gain experience and confidence and he is doing well.

  • POSTED BY EasternSuperStarXI on | December 18, 2008, 14:51 GMT

    Monty is clearly England's best spinner for England if you do not look at Adil Rasheed and World Best Saqlain Mushtaq. I think ECB need to take adv. of Saqlain Mushtaq as he can Play for England. In Indian Condition he can win match almost singlehandedly for England. For England this is the best time to get Saqlain in and Adil Rasheed will be the 2nd slow man to work on his Slow bowling with Saqlain. ECB should look at Saqlain record if he Play International Cricket for 5 to 6 years he will become one of the leading wicket-takers in world Cricket. I wish I can see him playing for England in Test and ODI.

  • POSTED BY Katri on | December 18, 2008, 13:55 GMT

    I almost choked on my sandwitch when I read the comparison of Monty with the likes of messers Warne, Murali and Kumble. Monty is not even the best in the world right now, when Murali is in the evening of his career and Warne and Kumble have already retired. The club of international left-arm slow bowlers in limited tom him and Daniel Vettori and he isnt even the number one there. The only international bowler that he merits comparison with right now is Paul Harris, who still managed to pick up a couple of Aussie wickets after coming back from a finger injury. And am being generous here by not comparing Monty with Yuvraj Singh. This article is plainly ridiculous.

  • POSTED BY Gilliana on | December 18, 2008, 13:14 GMT

    I have been watching this young man bowl ever since his initiation into test cricket and it seems to me that until now he bowls exactly the same since his first Test match. He has in no way improved his guile or inovated anything new. His flight is the same and there is no bite off the pitch because the ball hardly lands on the seam. He rarely uses the looping flight on a dead pitch to keep the batsman guessing and when he does the ball does not land on the seam. He actually depends on the bowlers footmarks hoping for a catch or the batsman being bowled. He still trundles the up and down stuff and it really surprises me how his coaches and mentors have never noticed this. I cannot fanthom why this young fellow has never sought the help of that left handed master, Bishen Bedi. This boy is lazy and he knows fully well that there is no spinning talentin England to replace him. Giles was the more superior bowler and terminating his career prematurely was England's fallacy.

  • POSTED BY Devapriya on | December 18, 2008, 13:04 GMT

    Rob Stein must be 'joking' - to suggest that Panesar might overtake Murali & Warne (wicket tally). He would be lucky to get close to Kumble's tally! Monty may be a lefty but he just cannot be considered a great spinner like the three legends mentioned above. Time will tell of course. Judging by the way South Asian sides have tamed him he will find even Bangladesh difficult to bowl at!

  • POSTED BY Percy_Fender on | December 18, 2008, 13:01 GMT

    I am very disappointed by the way the English media have gone hammer and tongs after Monty after his average performance in Chennai. Monty is the best left arm spinner that England have had since Tuffnel. Given some confidence by the captain and the kinds of field that Vettori employs, Monty will certainly show why he was rated so high in his early years. I think he did very well against against Pakistan and later when he was brought in against Australia in the Ashes which England lost 5-0. There is a need to boost his confidence by giving him plenty of overs and the fields with which wickets will come. I really wish he would have a word with Vettori who is in my opinion the best left arm spinner in the world at present, on the field settings and strategies to be employed against specific batsmen based on video analysis. Monty is young and should be persisted with. I am sure he has a great future ahead of him if the media do not target him in the manner they are doing.

  • POSTED BY ChaseHQ on | December 18, 2008, 12:42 GMT

    There's another monty you've missed out of your list of well loved English monty's: Bernard Montgomery.

    As for his stats comparing favourably with other spinners, a lot of his success has come against poor WI and NZ sides. You'll have noticed that his first class stats aren't much different to his test stats. He has learned one or two dimensions of the repetoire of a spin bowler, but not the full gamut. He seems to be the perennial apprentice, able to come out from under the shadow of the other bowlers only occasionally. But that said among England bowlers, it's only really Flintoff who seems to always be on his game.

  • POSTED BY KirGop on | December 18, 2008, 12:41 GMT

    Jeez Rob. I stopped reading right after the reference to Eve. Pretty liberal with the words always and never.

    Regardless of Montys form, he stays the lead spinner and KP will have him on the side. Broad comes in Harmys place. Its simple really.

  • POSTED BY Watriy on | December 18, 2008, 12:35 GMT

    Ajantha Mendis will pass his wickent tally of 117 in 10 more matches

  • POSTED BY RLX36 on | December 18, 2008, 12:12 GMT

    Nicely written article - goes for easy reading without ofcourse missing the gist of the theme. Also with a piano voce of irony. Thank you very much. Monty should be a team player, even if is not trying to grasp the intricacies. But to me it even more important, that he should be more communictive (listen also), which would mould or modify his thought process to be more intune with the necessities of the game at hand. But thanks again for the nicely readable article.

  • POSTED BY cricketmad on | December 18, 2008, 11:05 GMT

    The best spinners in the business love it when a batsman has a go at them. They will then get the oppurtunity to deceive them in flight and length. Monty seems to abandon his flight as soon as he is taken for runs! Just ask Bedi...

  • POSTED BY gavbergin on | December 18, 2008, 10:56 GMT

    Finally people are copping on to Panesar's blatant limitations. It is stunning that not only has he been given so many opportunities, but also appears to have become un-droppable. This is amazing, as surely no other international cricketer plumbs such laughable depths of incompetence. At least that other recent England spinner(and comedic batsman /fielder)Phil Tufnell, had genuine match-winning skill to more than compensate. Sadly he did not receive the baffingly large amount of goodwill, which ignores the (seemingly) blatantly obvious: MS Panesar really is not very good.

  • POSTED BY RossA on | December 18, 2008, 10:37 GMT

    Longmemory - even though it appears you are an Aussie I completely agree. Let me tell you Steve Harmison is massively unpopular over here; most of us never wanted him to play for England in Test cricket again after the 5-0 Ashes down under (go and ask our brave and outstanding Marines/Soldiers in Afghanistan what they think of Harmy..). Stuart Broad has less pace and bounce but he has a great attitude so must get a start. Monty MUST learn that cricket is a series of indivdual contests within a team environment. Warne knew this better than anyone - he analysed the individual; their personality alongside their batting strengths and weaknesses. His lack of variation is very worrying and his batting and fielding are atrocious; worse than Phil Tufnell.

    The answer: ECB offer Warney £1m for a years contract as England spin coach. Warney would do anything for ££cash; even help the Poms ;-)!

  • POSTED BY gavbergin on | December 18, 2008, 10:35 GMT

    Finally people are copping on to Panesar's blatantly obvious limitations . It is stunning that, not only has he been given so many opportunities, but appears also to have become un-droppable. This is all the more amazing as surely no other international cricketer plumbs such depths of incompetence. At least that other recent England spinner(and comedic batsman and fielder),the much maligned Phil Tufnell, had genuine match-winning skill to more than compensate. Sadly for Tufnell, he did not receive the embarrassing amount of goodwill Panesar has been lucky to receive. I believe much of the blinkered analysis(or lack thereof)of dear 'Monty' is reverse discrimination, an attempt at amending centuries of English arrogance and prejudice by ignoring the obvious truth: MS Panesar really is not vey good.

  • POSTED BY PeteB on | December 18, 2008, 10:13 GMT

    Since when has Deadly zderek not been considered aa spinner? Soap and water!

  • POSTED BY futurecaptainofindia on | December 18, 2008, 9:50 GMT

    Monty is clearly England's best spinner in the last 20 years. But it is a joke to even contemplate associating him with Kumble, Warne, Murali. That said, it is also unreasonable to pull him up for one bad Test. All three of the fore-mentioned legends have had their off-days. Monty put up a fine show on the previous tour to India, and 117 wickets in 34 games is a decent record. However, I agree that it is about time he introduces some variation, that can elevate him to the status of a match-winner. Its no good having 300 wickets (probably his ultimate tally) without making a significant impact. And it might be worthwhile to actually see MONTY TURN instead of writing an autobiography, ghosted it maybe.

  • POSTED BY robheinen on | December 18, 2008, 9:33 GMT

    Monty's just not the 'world's greatest spinner'as Duncan Fletcher tried to promote him. It was a distant shot to fame - having 'discovered' him - by Duncan, that didn't work out.

    Let's face it Monty's not a matchwinner. Matchwinners can ALWAYS give that bit extra. Look at Warne. Look at Botham. They win match almost singlehandedly.

    Monty will never do that. If in a match that''s all but won the only tactic you can think of is bowling outside leg, for the batsman to pad it away, then you're by all means not a matchwinner.

    Let's stop the Duncan Fletcher invented myth of Monty Panesar and relieve that pressure of HIS shoulders. Maybe he'll become a decent - thinking - spinner.

  • POSTED BY Kilat on | December 18, 2008, 8:17 GMT

    It's rather far-fetched to suggest that Monty could ever be Test cricket's leading wicket-taker! Even if Murali never plays again and Monty never experiences a trough, he would need approximately 600 more wickets in his next "decade on the clock". This averages to 60 wickets per season, which is roughly what Dale Steyn - the leading wicket-taker for 2008 - has. As it is, Monty is at the crossroads and looks highly unlikely to be one of the leading annual wicket-takers, let alone at the top of the tree for a whole decade. It really is "inconceivable".

  • POSTED BY witty-jack on | December 18, 2008, 7:37 GMT

    that comment about him having the chance of holding the bowling record is the BIGGEST joke i have read. muralitharan will end up with atleast 950. monty will reach it if he plays for another life time.

  • POSTED BY CricketLoversRuleTheWorld on | December 18, 2008, 6:25 GMT

    Please give him time.. he is still so young.. well feeling is he was bit short on the last day.. may b he was bit tensed getting hit..and thats the strategy Indians used against him.. they played their strokes..hope he learns quickly and ll get back to his best pretty soon.. I think Creza can b a g8 example 4 him.. it didn't matter whether the Indian batters tried to hit him out of the attack he still tried beating them in the flight.. Monty is a g8 asset for world cricket.. he should b taken care well..and let him do what he wants to do..

  • POSTED BY NeilCameron on | December 18, 2008, 5:16 GMT

    The Adam/Eve allegory doesn't work. First of all, it wasn't an apple, but some form of fruit. Secondly, taking a bite of the fruit is not and never has been seen as an allegory of sex.

  • POSTED BY Longmemory on | December 18, 2008, 4:49 GMT

    During the ODIs prior to the tests, I had written in that leaving Monty out of the one-dayers was a mistake that would come back to haunt England. Its a lot to expect a guy to sit for half a week in Dubai, fly into Madras and then mop up a batting XI more used to playing spin than anything else. All this after not having played any competitive cricket in the previous 4 months. On a related note, the Eng media's obsession with Monty and his not having delivered has taken attention away from the real problems with your bowling. Forget Monty, look at those two staggering under-achievers - Harmy and Anderson. Heck, I've often thought if more of the English had been like Harmy back then, they would never have left their shores let alone conquer the world. Any bowling attack whose spearhead is a high-maintenance prima-donna cry-baby like Harmy should be thankful if it wins any tests at all. You guys are in for another hiding in Oz next time around.

  • POSTED BY jomtien on | December 18, 2008, 4:46 GMT

    Hi Rob, I found your article re Monty interesting-thank you. I am also an ex-County SLA bowler and I find Monty most disappointing, especially after his initial promise. I would like to ask Peter Moores what Monty has learnt since the Sri Llanka tour in 2007. My answer is 'nothing'I was there and also was in NZ and his bowling was exactly the same as it was in those six Tests. He has no variation at all. He has no'arm ball', does not use the crease and as soon as he is driven he goes into overdrive. I have never seen him bowl around the wicket to left-handers.I watched a lonely figure bowling in the nets in Sri Lanka and NZ. The England bowling coach was occupied with the seamers-mind you, when did the West Indies last produce a SLA bowler? Monty allows the batsmen to play back to four balls per over-hence the deep point! Surely he has to make the batsmen drive him, especially on the slow Asian wickets? He has to 'think' them out and not bowl like a robot. Enough said! John Davis

  • POSTED BY Mustafa007 on | December 18, 2008, 3:32 GMT

    Hi Rob,

    All what you said is correct but this statement is very concerning

    "He could have another decade on the clock.... It is not all that inconceivable that the overall Test wicket-taking record could yet be his..... to merely a gifted and natural bowler. "

    While Monty is a v. good spinner I think he is some way off to be in Vettori & Kaneria league let alone Warne's. Please do understand that I do want Monty to do well but the fact he has already gone through the first 35 tests without making any change to his game goes to show that he is a very moderate player. I don't think he is much different from Yuvraj Singh when it comes to bowling.

    Majority of good spinners out there are fearless. Please try and attach that word to Panesar and see if it suits him. Then attach that word with Warne, Kumble, Murali and all the good spinners who have played the game and you will be get the answer....yet he will end up being England's best spinner with 400 wickets at best.

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  • POSTED BY Mustafa007 on | December 18, 2008, 3:32 GMT

    Hi Rob,

    All what you said is correct but this statement is very concerning

    "He could have another decade on the clock.... It is not all that inconceivable that the overall Test wicket-taking record could yet be his..... to merely a gifted and natural bowler. "

    While Monty is a v. good spinner I think he is some way off to be in Vettori & Kaneria league let alone Warne's. Please do understand that I do want Monty to do well but the fact he has already gone through the first 35 tests without making any change to his game goes to show that he is a very moderate player. I don't think he is much different from Yuvraj Singh when it comes to bowling.

    Majority of good spinners out there are fearless. Please try and attach that word to Panesar and see if it suits him. Then attach that word with Warne, Kumble, Murali and all the good spinners who have played the game and you will be get the answer....yet he will end up being England's best spinner with 400 wickets at best.

  • POSTED BY jomtien on | December 18, 2008, 4:46 GMT

    Hi Rob, I found your article re Monty interesting-thank you. I am also an ex-County SLA bowler and I find Monty most disappointing, especially after his initial promise. I would like to ask Peter Moores what Monty has learnt since the Sri Llanka tour in 2007. My answer is 'nothing'I was there and also was in NZ and his bowling was exactly the same as it was in those six Tests. He has no variation at all. He has no'arm ball', does not use the crease and as soon as he is driven he goes into overdrive. I have never seen him bowl around the wicket to left-handers.I watched a lonely figure bowling in the nets in Sri Lanka and NZ. The England bowling coach was occupied with the seamers-mind you, when did the West Indies last produce a SLA bowler? Monty allows the batsmen to play back to four balls per over-hence the deep point! Surely he has to make the batsmen drive him, especially on the slow Asian wickets? He has to 'think' them out and not bowl like a robot. Enough said! John Davis

  • POSTED BY Longmemory on | December 18, 2008, 4:49 GMT

    During the ODIs prior to the tests, I had written in that leaving Monty out of the one-dayers was a mistake that would come back to haunt England. Its a lot to expect a guy to sit for half a week in Dubai, fly into Madras and then mop up a batting XI more used to playing spin than anything else. All this after not having played any competitive cricket in the previous 4 months. On a related note, the Eng media's obsession with Monty and his not having delivered has taken attention away from the real problems with your bowling. Forget Monty, look at those two staggering under-achievers - Harmy and Anderson. Heck, I've often thought if more of the English had been like Harmy back then, they would never have left their shores let alone conquer the world. Any bowling attack whose spearhead is a high-maintenance prima-donna cry-baby like Harmy should be thankful if it wins any tests at all. You guys are in for another hiding in Oz next time around.

  • POSTED BY NeilCameron on | December 18, 2008, 5:16 GMT

    The Adam/Eve allegory doesn't work. First of all, it wasn't an apple, but some form of fruit. Secondly, taking a bite of the fruit is not and never has been seen as an allegory of sex.

  • POSTED BY CricketLoversRuleTheWorld on | December 18, 2008, 6:25 GMT

    Please give him time.. he is still so young.. well feeling is he was bit short on the last day.. may b he was bit tensed getting hit..and thats the strategy Indians used against him.. they played their strokes..hope he learns quickly and ll get back to his best pretty soon.. I think Creza can b a g8 example 4 him.. it didn't matter whether the Indian batters tried to hit him out of the attack he still tried beating them in the flight.. Monty is a g8 asset for world cricket.. he should b taken care well..and let him do what he wants to do..

  • POSTED BY witty-jack on | December 18, 2008, 7:37 GMT

    that comment about him having the chance of holding the bowling record is the BIGGEST joke i have read. muralitharan will end up with atleast 950. monty will reach it if he plays for another life time.

  • POSTED BY Kilat on | December 18, 2008, 8:17 GMT

    It's rather far-fetched to suggest that Monty could ever be Test cricket's leading wicket-taker! Even if Murali never plays again and Monty never experiences a trough, he would need approximately 600 more wickets in his next "decade on the clock". This averages to 60 wickets per season, which is roughly what Dale Steyn - the leading wicket-taker for 2008 - has. As it is, Monty is at the crossroads and looks highly unlikely to be one of the leading annual wicket-takers, let alone at the top of the tree for a whole decade. It really is "inconceivable".

  • POSTED BY robheinen on | December 18, 2008, 9:33 GMT

    Monty's just not the 'world's greatest spinner'as Duncan Fletcher tried to promote him. It was a distant shot to fame - having 'discovered' him - by Duncan, that didn't work out.

    Let's face it Monty's not a matchwinner. Matchwinners can ALWAYS give that bit extra. Look at Warne. Look at Botham. They win match almost singlehandedly.

    Monty will never do that. If in a match that''s all but won the only tactic you can think of is bowling outside leg, for the batsman to pad it away, then you're by all means not a matchwinner.

    Let's stop the Duncan Fletcher invented myth of Monty Panesar and relieve that pressure of HIS shoulders. Maybe he'll become a decent - thinking - spinner.

  • POSTED BY futurecaptainofindia on | December 18, 2008, 9:50 GMT

    Monty is clearly England's best spinner in the last 20 years. But it is a joke to even contemplate associating him with Kumble, Warne, Murali. That said, it is also unreasonable to pull him up for one bad Test. All three of the fore-mentioned legends have had their off-days. Monty put up a fine show on the previous tour to India, and 117 wickets in 34 games is a decent record. However, I agree that it is about time he introduces some variation, that can elevate him to the status of a match-winner. Its no good having 300 wickets (probably his ultimate tally) without making a significant impact. And it might be worthwhile to actually see MONTY TURN instead of writing an autobiography, ghosted it maybe.

  • POSTED BY PeteB on | December 18, 2008, 10:13 GMT

    Since when has Deadly zderek not been considered aa spinner? Soap and water!