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September 23, 2013
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Monty Panesar has been given professional help in overcoming the personal problems which have dogged his season, but it is now down to him to show he is a reformed character after being handed a place on the Ashes tour.
Panesar was forced to leave Sussex for Essex in August after being fined following an incident in Brighton where he urinated on bouncers. When England wanted a second spinner for The Oval Test they went for Lancashire's Simon Kerrigan, but his awful debut - where he bowled just eight overs for 53, amid a series of full tosses and long hops - meant the decision on who would support Graeme Swann in Australia was between Panesar and James Tredwell.
With 164 wickets at 33.78 in 48 Tests there was no doubt that Panesar remained the second best spinner, but a key part of England's success in Australia during 2010-11 - of which Panesar was a squad member - was having a tightly-knit squad and the management will have wanted assurances that Panesar would be able to fit into that mould.
In India last year Panesar formed a matchwinning partnership with Swann during England's series victory, but then struggled in New Zealand when he was left as the sole spinner after Swann's elbow injury flared up.
Even before his raucous night out, Panesar's domestic form for Sussex had not been outstanding - although he was part of the squad for the Old Trafford Test - but he has shown signs of regaining his form and confidence with Essex even if 12 wickets at 33.66 is not overwhelming.
The ECB has provided support for Panesar over the last few weeks and he will continue to be offered the assistance he needs, but he could face a tour with a lot of time on the sidelines which will be a test of his focus.
Hugh Morris, the outgoing managing director of England cricket, said: "We try to provide different support to different players. Clearly that remains confidential, but you can rest assured that the support Monty needs - both on and off the field - he is getting."
Geoff Miller, the national selector, said he had been given enough assurances that Panesar will be able cope with the two-and-a-half month trip from late October to early January.
"He's very prepared to let his bowling do the talking for him, so I'm prepared to accept that,'' Miller said. He's an experienced international player, and it's up to him to actually produce the goods for us.'
"Monty had his problems, which we've worked hard to rectify in the last six weeks - and he has too,'' he said. "There's a very strong management in that side to help all aspects of it. He's appreciated he's made errors and he's very sure that those errors are behind him now."
Although official stand-by players for the main squad have not been named, Miller did say that he had been in conversation with Tredwell about being ready for a call-up if the situation regarding England's spin options did change. "He's not on stand-by as such, but anything can happen on tour - injuries or an unforeseen problem - so a phonecall can be minutes away. These fringe players know the call may not be far away."
Spin bowling is the one area where English cricket is not overly stocked with options at the moment. Kerrigan and Danny Briggs, the Hampshire left-arm spinner, are the two spinners in the performance squad although the likes of Azeem Rafiq, Adil Rashid and Scott Borthwick may come into consideration for the Lions tour of Sri Lanka early next year.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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