England in New Zealand 2012-13 March 20, 2013

Panesar should back himself in lone role

Monty Panesar so far hasn't looked at himself as the leading spinner in England's side. It is time he changed that mindset
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There was one moment in the Wellington Test that would not have been seen a few years ago. On the third evening, with England striving to make inroads before the weather closed in, left-arm spinner Monty Panesar remonstrated with his captain, Alastair Cook, about his close-catchers.

From a distance away it appeared he did not much like the leg side, perhaps he wanted another man in the covers instead. Cook got his way and the leg slip stayed in place. Panesar completed the over then got an arm round the shoulder from Matt Prior. With rough to aim at and wickets an urgent need, the pressure was on Panesar. As it turned out he did not make further inroads and, ultimately, the Test was a watery draw.

That moment, however, when Panesar questioned, or challenged, his captain, was important - that is what people had wanted him to do. Come out of his shell; be confident in what he wants; set the agenda himself rather than have it set for him. A few years ago Shane Warne remarked: "Monty Panesar hasn't played 33 Tests, he's played one Test 33 times" in reference to his lack of development of self-thinking. The fact he did not get it on this occasion does not matter and, it must be hoped, it will not stop him from trying again in the future.

Panesar was not expected to play any part in this series. Then, Graeme Swann's elbow became too great a concern for the England management and he was sent off to the United States for surgery. Suddenly, on the morning of the first Test in Dunedin, Panesar was pitched into the series without having bowled a competitive delivery since the Nagpur Test in mid-December.

He was rusty in Dunedin. His economy, normally a safe house for him even when he isn't taking wickets, was high as Hamish Rutherford, especially, made an effort to get after him. In Wellington he was better, playing an important holding role in the first innings to allow the quick bowlers to rotate and dismiss New Zealand for 254 on a flat pitch. At the start of the second innings, Panesar made one spit and bounce out of the rough to remove Rutherford but that was as good as it got despite a few near misses.

There have been suggestions that Panesar's place could be under threat for the final Test, either from James Tredwell or a fourth seamer, on a surface unlikely to offer much for the spinner. Panesar, though, should be persevered with. He is not a naturally confident person so, although Test cricket is not a place for soft decisions, he needs to be given the sort of strong backing which will keep his self-belief high.

This is the first time Panesar has been England's lone spinner since the start of the West Indies tour in 2009, when he played the Jamaica Test, where England were bowled out for 51, and the next match in Antigua that was abandoned on a sandpit outfield after 10 deliveries. He was then dropped, in favour of Swann, for the rearranged Test at the Recreation Ground, and ever since has only ever partnered Swann, until this tour.

Being the main man is still not a position that comes naturally to Panesar. His successes in the UAE and India came when he knew the expectation was on Swann, something that Swann does not struggle to cope with. Yet Panesar can, even though he perhaps doesn't realise it, take a leading role. Cook's second-innings hundred in Ahmedabad instilled belief in England they could compete, but Panesar's spell on the first day in Mumbai - which included dismissing Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar - sparked them into life.

This tour, and especially the final Test with the series still square, is an important challenge for Panesar. The very early signs are that Swann's elbow surgery has gone well, but it will be a few more weeks before anyone has a clearer picture. Swann, certainly, is unlikely to be tweeting any downbeat thoughts. Panesar, however, must get his mind around the possibility that he will be England's one spinner in the Ashes not just that he might, yet, be part of a two-man spin attack that is looking tempting after Australia's problems in India.

If there was a combination of conditions Panesar would not want to have, it could well be what he will encounter at Eden Park. A drop-in pitch is unlikely to encourage the spinners and then there are the odd dimensions of the ground; short straight boundaries which are no more than a chip away. In his favour, he has a batting order filled with right handers and the DRS.

And, it might just be that one of the most discussed facets of Panesar's game helps him. Pace, pace, pace is often the theme when he bowls. Why can't he vary it more? Toss one up, Monty. Sometimes it can be infuriating when there appears no discernible difference during a long spell, but the slower he bowls often the more erratic he becomes. With short boundaries inviting lofted shots, Panesar's quicker speed, which gives batsmen less time to get under the ball, might just give him another trick up his sleeve.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | March 21, 2013, 2:19 GMT

    After the series win in India there were lots of people saying that Panesar should be considered England's #1 spinner over Swann. I guess we'll never know how Swann would have done but I think we've seen why those calls were misguided. Monty was excellent in India but, as many of us said, he was unlikely to be able to reproduce that form in less helpful conditions. This series has borne that out and shown why Monty was replaced as #1 spinner in the first place. He's not doing a bad job but I would expect Swann to have been more dangerous. Those calling for Monty to replace Swann also seemed to be looking only at Monty's wickets and ignored the fact that Swann's average and strike rate were better than Monty's over the UAE and India tours. Why exactly the captains chose to give Monty so many more overs, I guess we'll never know but the fact that Swann was picked on both tours in the games where only one spinner played shows who those captains consider to be the first option.

  • POSTED BY bumsonseats on | March 21, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    samroy right with steyn but come on ajmal struggle in eng and aus, and other than when playing in uae has not done much. and murli and warne got wickets in most countries,with india soso but most spinners have struggled in india in the past. monty i feel bowls well with swann in tandem, but on his own other than a few games does not pose the threat of swann.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 21, 2013, 10:54 GMT

    @TATTUs on (March 21, 2013, 5:52 GMT) No - you're wrong there. Monty made a huge difference but if Monty was the sole spinner in that series England would not have won the series just like if Swann was the sole spinner England would not have won that series

  • POSTED BY TATTUs on | March 21, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    More than Swann definitely and perhaps along with Cook it was Panesar that won the series for England in India.

  • POSTED BY Benj500 on | March 20, 2013, 18:18 GMT

    The last sentence of the 6th paragraph makes no sense whatsoever.

  • POSTED BY Aussiesfalling on | March 20, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    Perhaps the more pertinent point Andrew is that England should trust Panesar, given there are rumours that they may not play a spinner.

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | March 20, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    @big_al_81 Herath is a vastly different bowler to what he was 5 years ago. Then there was Murali and he was a talented support spinner who sometimes got a game. Now, he is the strike bowler and has to take vast majority of top order wickets. Swann doesn't have to do that. There is Finn, Anderson, Broad and sometimes Panesar to help him out. Yet he has almost singlehandedly defeated SA(away) and Pakistan(home) in a test match. Swann is a very good bowler, in my mind currently the third best spinner, after Herath and Ajmal. Ajmal is a great bowler and others can't be compared to him. Even Murali was a great bowler but was he successful in Australia? No. Ajmal has that aura which no other spinner currently has. Ojha has a better flight and loop than Panesar. Ashwin has also learned to vary his pace and control his impatience to a certain extent. They are not yet better than Panesar but they will become better with time.

  • POSTED BY phermon on | March 20, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    I think it is important for Monty to be unleashed. To develop, his view on strategy is supremely important and the Chef needs to understand that. He, Cook, is a brilliant cricketer but he is not a spinner and needs to allow Monty to take wickets - not merely contain. Swan wouldn't accept Cook disciplining him out of wickets and nor should Monty - within an overal team goal of winning and NOT losing.

  • POSTED BY big_al_81 on | March 20, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    @SamRoy. There is one matter on which I nearly agree though. I'd say there is only one bowler in the world who is truly a cricket great, and that is Steyn. Tremendous averages, out of this world Strike Rate, and creates wickets for others like Philander, Morkel, and the rest. Already an all time great. Whether that would get him into an all-time XI I doubt, but 11 is a small number in about 150 years of international cricket.

  • POSTED BY big_al_81 on | March 20, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    @SamRoy, bold assertions are no real match for actual facts. Saying that Herath, who plays the vast majority of his cricket at home, is a better bowler than a Swann, who has proved it all round the world, is on current evidence, total conjecture. It will be good to see how good Ajmal actually is after a few more games in a few places, but the evidence so far is that he is probably the best right now. As for Ashwin, the only evidence we have suggests he's very good at home and very poor away. Since India manage to play most of their cricket at home, he'll carry on looking good, until England or SA turn up again (or possibly Pakistan or SL!) Excellent short format bowler and jolly useful lower order batsman though.

  • POSTED BY jmcilhinney on | March 21, 2013, 2:19 GMT

    After the series win in India there were lots of people saying that Panesar should be considered England's #1 spinner over Swann. I guess we'll never know how Swann would have done but I think we've seen why those calls were misguided. Monty was excellent in India but, as many of us said, he was unlikely to be able to reproduce that form in less helpful conditions. This series has borne that out and shown why Monty was replaced as #1 spinner in the first place. He's not doing a bad job but I would expect Swann to have been more dangerous. Those calling for Monty to replace Swann also seemed to be looking only at Monty's wickets and ignored the fact that Swann's average and strike rate were better than Monty's over the UAE and India tours. Why exactly the captains chose to give Monty so many more overs, I guess we'll never know but the fact that Swann was picked on both tours in the games where only one spinner played shows who those captains consider to be the first option.

  • POSTED BY bumsonseats on | March 21, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    samroy right with steyn but come on ajmal struggle in eng and aus, and other than when playing in uae has not done much. and murli and warne got wickets in most countries,with india soso but most spinners have struggled in india in the past. monty i feel bowls well with swann in tandem, but on his own other than a few games does not pose the threat of swann.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 21, 2013, 10:54 GMT

    @TATTUs on (March 21, 2013, 5:52 GMT) No - you're wrong there. Monty made a huge difference but if Monty was the sole spinner in that series England would not have won the series just like if Swann was the sole spinner England would not have won that series

  • POSTED BY TATTUs on | March 21, 2013, 5:52 GMT

    More than Swann definitely and perhaps along with Cook it was Panesar that won the series for England in India.

  • POSTED BY Benj500 on | March 20, 2013, 18:18 GMT

    The last sentence of the 6th paragraph makes no sense whatsoever.

  • POSTED BY Aussiesfalling on | March 20, 2013, 17:52 GMT

    Perhaps the more pertinent point Andrew is that England should trust Panesar, given there are rumours that they may not play a spinner.

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | March 20, 2013, 15:55 GMT

    @big_al_81 Herath is a vastly different bowler to what he was 5 years ago. Then there was Murali and he was a talented support spinner who sometimes got a game. Now, he is the strike bowler and has to take vast majority of top order wickets. Swann doesn't have to do that. There is Finn, Anderson, Broad and sometimes Panesar to help him out. Yet he has almost singlehandedly defeated SA(away) and Pakistan(home) in a test match. Swann is a very good bowler, in my mind currently the third best spinner, after Herath and Ajmal. Ajmal is a great bowler and others can't be compared to him. Even Murali was a great bowler but was he successful in Australia? No. Ajmal has that aura which no other spinner currently has. Ojha has a better flight and loop than Panesar. Ashwin has also learned to vary his pace and control his impatience to a certain extent. They are not yet better than Panesar but they will become better with time.

  • POSTED BY phermon on | March 20, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    I think it is important for Monty to be unleashed. To develop, his view on strategy is supremely important and the Chef needs to understand that. He, Cook, is a brilliant cricketer but he is not a spinner and needs to allow Monty to take wickets - not merely contain. Swan wouldn't accept Cook disciplining him out of wickets and nor should Monty - within an overal team goal of winning and NOT losing.

  • POSTED BY big_al_81 on | March 20, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    @SamRoy. There is one matter on which I nearly agree though. I'd say there is only one bowler in the world who is truly a cricket great, and that is Steyn. Tremendous averages, out of this world Strike Rate, and creates wickets for others like Philander, Morkel, and the rest. Already an all time great. Whether that would get him into an all-time XI I doubt, but 11 is a small number in about 150 years of international cricket.

  • POSTED BY big_al_81 on | March 20, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    @SamRoy, bold assertions are no real match for actual facts. Saying that Herath, who plays the vast majority of his cricket at home, is a better bowler than a Swann, who has proved it all round the world, is on current evidence, total conjecture. It will be good to see how good Ajmal actually is after a few more games in a few places, but the evidence so far is that he is probably the best right now. As for Ashwin, the only evidence we have suggests he's very good at home and very poor away. Since India manage to play most of their cricket at home, he'll carry on looking good, until England or SA turn up again (or possibly Pakistan or SL!) Excellent short format bowler and jolly useful lower order batsman though.

  • POSTED BY R_U_4_REAL_NICK on | March 20, 2013, 9:21 GMT

    IMO, Magic-Monty is a bowler who's key goal shoule be to tie up an end - much like a certain Ashley Fraser Giles. In the NZ games so far, he has done this well... (without going back and looking at the scorecards, wasn't he one of the most economical bowlers?). He's not going to be a bowler that picks up loads of wickets... he may not finish his career with the prettiest of averages... But every dog has his day, and people criticising Monty have a very short memory of his key role he played in India. England do need him! Going to India and playing only one spinner is one the daftest strategies England ever made. Even for ODI's, I'd much rather have an economical bowler like Monty than an out-of-form Broad/Dernbach.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 20, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    @GeoffreysMother on (March 20, 2013, 8:00 GMT)

    re

    "Ajmal, who in my view would be the equal of Warne and Murali if he was lucky enough to play more matches, and at home"

    Wouldn't rate Ajmal up there with the 2 you mentioned. Both did it for years and all over the world - whatever the conditions. Agree Ajmal is the best of the current crop but last time he played in England he wasn't too effective. I'm sure he'll be a different proposition next time but let's wait and see.

    PS just looked at his stats in SA. In 1 match he took 10 for (over 2 inns) but in the other 2 he took 1 wicket in 3 inns

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 20, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    I like Monty alot but I think Swann and Tredwell are probably better thinking bowlers. When there is little/no assistance in the pitch I feel Swann definitely is the better bet with his flight and pace variations. Monty possibly has a bigger arsenal but if only he could learn to vary his pace a bit more. I wonder if it's a confidence thing. Swann always seems quite prepared to toss it up at the risk of going for a boundary/six and if he does go for the boundary/6 it won't affect his confidence/mindset and will bowl a similar delivery again (soon after) if he thinks it might reap rewards.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 20, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    @Ben Williams on (March 20, 2013, 8:27 GMT) Surely the best comparison is when 2 spinneres go head to head on the same wickets which Ashwin and Monty did in India

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | March 20, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    @GeoffreysMother Herath is better than both Panesar and Swann. And Rehman is better than Panesar. Ojha and Ashwin will be better than Panesar with experience. They are still very young. And Ajmal is a great bowler. There are only two great bowlers in world cricket currently Ajmal and Steyn.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    @Geoffrey, I think based on Ashwin's performance in the series against us, that he is probably a better bowler than Monty, regardless of how bad our batting has been, Ashwin varies his pace very well unlike Monty & has finally learnt to use his carrom ball very sparingly, something of which Monty doesn't have, on that point, I would say Herath is probably as good as a bowler as Monty, but would be a close match

  • POSTED BY GeoffreysMother on | March 20, 2013, 8:00 GMT

    Monty should take heart that in the world of spin he probably lies third behind Ajmal and Swann; with him just leading Herath, Rehmann, Ashwin and Ohja. He plays in far less conducive conditions than all but Swann and only got hit at Dunedin because the ground was small, though this will also be an issue in Auckland. If, as predicted, it is a filthy wicket his spin at pace could yet be a key factor.

    Mind you, in my view everyone is a mile behind Ajmal, who in my view would be the equal of Warne and Murali if he was lucky enough to play more matches, and at home. Like Murali, but unlike Warne, he often has to do it without large scores to defend and consistent pressure from the other end.

  • POSTED BY GeoffreysMother on | March 20, 2013, 8:00 GMT

    Monty should take heart that in the world of spin he probably lies third behind Ajmal and Swann; with him just leading Herath, Rehmann, Ashwin and Ohja. He plays in far less conducive conditions than all but Swann and only got hit at Dunedin because the ground was small, though this will also be an issue in Auckland. If, as predicted, it is a filthy wicket his spin at pace could yet be a key factor.

    Mind you, in my view everyone is a mile behind Ajmal, who in my view would be the equal of Warne and Murali if he was lucky enough to play more matches, and at home. Like Murali, but unlike Warne, he often has to do it without large scores to defend and consistent pressure from the other end.

  • POSTED BY on | March 20, 2013, 8:27 GMT

    @Geoffrey, I think based on Ashwin's performance in the series against us, that he is probably a better bowler than Monty, regardless of how bad our batting has been, Ashwin varies his pace very well unlike Monty & has finally learnt to use his carrom ball very sparingly, something of which Monty doesn't have, on that point, I would say Herath is probably as good as a bowler as Monty, but would be a close match

  • POSTED BY SamRoy on | March 20, 2013, 8:50 GMT

    @GeoffreysMother Herath is better than both Panesar and Swann. And Rehman is better than Panesar. Ojha and Ashwin will be better than Panesar with experience. They are still very young. And Ajmal is a great bowler. There are only two great bowlers in world cricket currently Ajmal and Steyn.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 20, 2013, 8:59 GMT

    @Ben Williams on (March 20, 2013, 8:27 GMT) Surely the best comparison is when 2 spinneres go head to head on the same wickets which Ashwin and Monty did in India

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 20, 2013, 9:06 GMT

    I like Monty alot but I think Swann and Tredwell are probably better thinking bowlers. When there is little/no assistance in the pitch I feel Swann definitely is the better bet with his flight and pace variations. Monty possibly has a bigger arsenal but if only he could learn to vary his pace a bit more. I wonder if it's a confidence thing. Swann always seems quite prepared to toss it up at the risk of going for a boundary/six and if he does go for the boundary/6 it won't affect his confidence/mindset and will bowl a similar delivery again (soon after) if he thinks it might reap rewards.

  • POSTED BY JG2704 on | March 20, 2013, 9:16 GMT

    @GeoffreysMother on (March 20, 2013, 8:00 GMT)

    re

    "Ajmal, who in my view would be the equal of Warne and Murali if he was lucky enough to play more matches, and at home"

    Wouldn't rate Ajmal up there with the 2 you mentioned. Both did it for years and all over the world - whatever the conditions. Agree Ajmal is the best of the current crop but last time he played in England he wasn't too effective. I'm sure he'll be a different proposition next time but let's wait and see.

    PS just looked at his stats in SA. In 1 match he took 10 for (over 2 inns) but in the other 2 he took 1 wicket in 3 inns

  • POSTED BY R_U_4_REAL_NICK on | March 20, 2013, 9:21 GMT

    IMO, Magic-Monty is a bowler who's key goal shoule be to tie up an end - much like a certain Ashley Fraser Giles. In the NZ games so far, he has done this well... (without going back and looking at the scorecards, wasn't he one of the most economical bowlers?). He's not going to be a bowler that picks up loads of wickets... he may not finish his career with the prettiest of averages... But every dog has his day, and people criticising Monty have a very short memory of his key role he played in India. England do need him! Going to India and playing only one spinner is one the daftest strategies England ever made. Even for ODI's, I'd much rather have an economical bowler like Monty than an out-of-form Broad/Dernbach.

  • POSTED BY big_al_81 on | March 20, 2013, 9:28 GMT

    @SamRoy, bold assertions are no real match for actual facts. Saying that Herath, who plays the vast majority of his cricket at home, is a better bowler than a Swann, who has proved it all round the world, is on current evidence, total conjecture. It will be good to see how good Ajmal actually is after a few more games in a few places, but the evidence so far is that he is probably the best right now. As for Ashwin, the only evidence we have suggests he's very good at home and very poor away. Since India manage to play most of their cricket at home, he'll carry on looking good, until England or SA turn up again (or possibly Pakistan or SL!) Excellent short format bowler and jolly useful lower order batsman though.

  • POSTED BY big_al_81 on | March 20, 2013, 9:40 GMT

    @SamRoy. There is one matter on which I nearly agree though. I'd say there is only one bowler in the world who is truly a cricket great, and that is Steyn. Tremendous averages, out of this world Strike Rate, and creates wickets for others like Philander, Morkel, and the rest. Already an all time great. Whether that would get him into an all-time XI I doubt, but 11 is a small number in about 150 years of international cricket.

  • POSTED BY phermon on | March 20, 2013, 9:57 GMT

    I think it is important for Monty to be unleashed. To develop, his view on strategy is supremely important and the Chef needs to understand that. He, Cook, is a brilliant cricketer but he is not a spinner and needs to allow Monty to take wickets - not merely contain. Swan wouldn't accept Cook disciplining him out of wickets and nor should Monty - within an overal team goal of winning and NOT losing.