England's spin champion just gets better and better

Monty's got mettle

The secret of Monty Panesar's success is his utter insouciance

Andrew Miller

June 20, 2007

Text size: A | A

Panesar has been a ubiquitous presence in this series precisely because he is now his country's most reliable source of wickets © Getty Images
Extraordinary as it may now seem, there was a school of thought at the start of this series that Monty Panesar should be dropped to make way for an extra seamer. Damp green mid-May pitches, overcast conditions and the prospect of a brittle opposition batting line-up - Monty, it was assumed, would be surplus to requirements. It made far better sense, so the logic went, to thrust James Anderson into the starting eleven, and hit West Indies with a full battery of pacemen.

England's new head coach Peter Moores, however, was not of the same opinion, and in hindsight it is just as well. This summer, England 's seam attack has not been all it was once cranked up to be. Matthew Hoggard went lame after 10.5 overs of the Lord's Test; Liam Plunkett and Steve Harmison went missing for vast swathes of the series. As the main men toiled, Ryan Sidebottom emerged as a creditable left-arm swing option, but the man on whom England increasingly leaned was the eager, unassuming Monty.

What a series he has just produced. Panesar's predecessors in the England spinner's role - the likes of Chris Schofield, Gareth Batty and Ashley Giles - would hardly have got a look-in in conditions such as these. In part, that is a reflection of the current health of England's seam attack, but equally it is to Monty's own immense credit. He has been a ubiquitous presence in this series precisely because he is now his country's most reliable source of wickets.

In every match bar the second Test at Headingley, when West Indies were so woeful that England barely needed to mix things up, Monty has finished as his team's leading wicket-taker. At Lord's, he wheeled his way onto the dressing-room honours board with 6 for 129 (a feat that has eluded both Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan); at Old Trafford he helped himself to his maiden ten-wicket haul, and his first Man-of-the-Match award. And at Chester-le-Street, in a match that called for a brisk denouement after a first-day washout, Panesar routed the West Indian second innings with 5 for 46.

The secret of Monty's success is his utter insouciance. All series long it seemed his bowling colleagues were on the verge of a variety of nervous breakdowns, and yet not once did Panesar let the pressure of seniority undermine his technique. "Keeping things simple" and "bowling in the right areas" are his stock responses to any enquiry about his methods. They sound like bland clich├ęs but in fact they are articles of faith. With his unnaturally long fingers enabling massive purchase on the ball, he needs to do little more than find his line and length and let the pitch do the talking.

Panesar was simply too good for West Indies in this series. Their squad embarked on this tour without a single specialist spinner, and the lack of familiarity showed as they groped and floundered in every session, swinging with reckless abandon or leaving their pads perilously close to the line of off stump. Only the magnificent Shivnarine Chanderpaul could claim to have got the better of Panesar, as he batted and batted and batted for five minutes shy of 18 straight hours. But even he succumbed in the end, sweeping out of the rough with only the No. 11 Corey Collymore for support, to become victim No. 5 of the second innings at Durham, and No. 23 of the series.

India will doubtless provide a sterner test of Monty's mettle, but there is no reason whatsoever to imagine he's going to be found out. His maiden Test wicket was Sachin Tendulkar after all, prised from the crease in the heat and dust of Nagpur last March. With the bat and in the field he improves with every game - his sharp caught-and-bowled at Old Trafford last week was a pivotal moment in the match, as was his slap-happy last-wicket stand with Sidebottom, and the crowd's adulation shows no sign of dimming at all.

Panesar is a bowler whose star is in the ascendancy. He has now picked up seven five-wicket hauls in 18 Tests, but all of those have come in the last 12 months alone. They've been grabbed on a variety of different surfaces as well. A first-morning track at the WACA, a seamer's paradise at Durham, a trampoline surface at Old Trafford.

Each time the method has been the same. Find the line, find the length, repeat until the cracks appear. Sometimes they are in the surface, other times in the batsmen. Never, as yet, have the cracks appeared in Panesar himself. He's loving this international cricket lark, as he loves to demonstrate with his marvellously mal-coordinated wicket celebrations. But when the ball is still in his hand, absolutely everything is channelled and focussed.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo

RSS Feeds: Andrew Miller

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Email Feedback Print
Andrew MillerClose
Andrew Miller Andrew Miller was saved from a life of drudgery in the City when his car caught fire on the way to an interview. He took this as a sign and fled to Pakistan where he witnessed England's historic victory in the twilight at Karachi (or thought he did, at any rate - it was too dark to tell). He then joined Wisden Online in 2001, and soon graduated from put-upon photocopier to a writer with a penchant for comment and cricket on the subcontinent. In addition to Pakistan, he has covered England tours in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, as well as the World Cup in the Caribbean in 2007
Related Links
Players/Officials: Monty Panesar
Teams: England

    'I learnt the importance of flight from Bishan'

My XI: Erapalli Prasanna on his partner in crime, Bishan Bedi

    Why Norman Tebbit was wrong

Rob Steen: So long as people's sporting affiliations do not assume racially abusive or violent form, who does it harm whether they support their national side or not?

    Catches, Moeen, and more

Switch Hit: The team reviews the 2014 county season

    'Kenya cricket is dead'

Aasif Karim's dream spell against Australia in 2003 symbolised a brief golden period for Kenya, but since his retirement, the country's cricket has nose-dived. By Tim Wigmore

Remembering Tony Greig, the allrounder

Stuart Wark: It's easy to forget that some popular commentators of our time were also excellent cricketers

News | Features Last 7 days

'Kenya cricket is dead and buried'

The veteran spinner's dream spell against Australia in 2003 symbolised a brief golden period for Kenya, but since his retirement, the country's cricket has nose-dived

Dhoni clears the stadium

Plays of the Day from the Champions League T20 match between Chennai Super Kings and Perth Scorchers, in Bangalore

'You can't survive 66 Tests on the basis of a quota'

Ashwell Prince talks about proving critics wrong, scoring hundreds against Australia, and that unending partnership in Colombo

Umar Akmal gives Raza the glare

Plays of the day from the CLT20 match between Dolphins and Lahore Lions in Bangalore

A hint of the vintage Sehwag

The Plays of the day from the CLT20 match between Kings XI Punjab and Northern Knights, in Mohali

News | Features Last 7 days