The Ashes 2013-14 October 24, 2013

We will look after Panesar - Cook


Pastoral care will be on Alastair Cook's list of responsibilities in Australia, alongside run-scoring and captaincy, as England try to ensure that Monty Panesar does not suffer a return to the problems he encountered during the recent English season.

Panesar's 2013 season came off the rails following a night out in Brighton where he was fined for being drunk and disorderly after urinating on a bouncer. It was the tipping point for a collection of issues, which stretched back over the preceding year or more.

He subsequently left Sussex and joined Essex on loan where he began the process of repairing his form and reputation, although his season finished with suspended ban from the ECB for a 'kick' aimed at an opposition batsman, during a Championship match against Worcestershire*, when he became frustrated during a spell.

However, he did enough to persuade the England hierarchy that he was capable of taking on a full tour to Australia as the back-up spinner to Graeme Swann, but it came with a warning from Geoff Miller, the national selector, that it was down to Panesar himself to live up to his promise that he had turned a corner.

Panesar has been given professional help during his problems but Cook knows that life as a support player, who may not have a huge role to play on the tour, can be difficult one. The Australian media are also likely to bring up the recent indiscretions while the local crowds won't be shy of making a few comments whether Panesar is playing in a match or just carrying drinks.

"Sometimes he struggles with long tours, I think that's fairly common knowledge, but we can look after him and that's one of the responsibilities we have as a leadership group," Cook said. "We've just got to make sure we look after him off the field. As a second spinner you know you might not play games and it can be very hard to carry the drinks at times. We need to get Monty in the right frame of mind so that if he's called upon, because you never know with injuries, that he's ready to play."

The England squad spent the weekend at their team-bonding trip in the Midlands - a far more tame affair compared to the fierce forest experience in Bavaria in 2010, which left James Anderson with a fractured rib - and it allowed Cook time to speak to Panesar while he has also gained feedback from his Essex team-mates.

"He's had a tough year or so," Cook said. "A lot of us didn't quite know what he was going through, if we are honest, and it all came to a line with a couple of incidents in the summer. I can speak about what the guys at Essex have said about him, about how he's coped, and I certainly think he's on the right path."

"He'll always have to work at that and the first thing has been recognising that he did have a problem as he has said. He says he's ready to go again. We are going to have to work well with him and look after him, but the bottom line is he's a fantastic bowler."

This will be Panesar's third tour to Australia. In 2006-07 he played three Tests after replacing Ashley Giles and claimed a five-wicket haul in his first innings of the series in Perth, but was not needed during the 2010-11 contest.

*1.45pmBST, October 24: The story was amended to correct Northamptonshire to Worcestershire as the county Panesar was facing

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Rob on October 28, 2013, 2:02 GMT

    Joel Banerjee on (October 25, 2013, 9:27 GMT) You reference the test series then refer to a return series where England were whitewashed- that was not a return series it was a ODI series; the "return series" or revenge series as it was called by many Indian fans was last winter (English) and I think I am right in thinking England won that too, simply never any credit to the opposition given it is always ifs and buts.

  • Desi on October 26, 2013, 18:53 GMT

    @Maximum, Murali It is not possible to say who is the best spinner simply because they are 2 bowlers bowling in different set of conditions against different batsmen at different times. @Murali Ajmal has 2 wickets in Australia, 2 in NZ, 12 in England, 11 in SA, hardly a descent sample to make him a candidate for even good bowler. Don't say it is not his fault that he has not played enough, we are going by what is not what could have been. @ Maximum Out bowling Ashwin and Ojha is not a big deal, the indian team that England played against was missing its biggest players or was about to lose them for age or form. VVS and Dravid had retired and Gambhir and Shewag have not featured since, Sachin was probably 10% of the batsmen, so it was not the traditionally strong indian batting line up that english spinners trumped. As far your point about Asian conditions the so called greatest spinner ever has these number in India, 9 Mtch, 34 Wkt, 43.11 Avg. Personally I rate Swann over Ajmal.

  • Dileep on October 26, 2013, 16:48 GMT

    Maximum 6: You only have to watch Ajmal to see that in any conditions he will be a more threatening bowler than Swann for reasons I have already stated. He has a doosra and gets more overspin and therefore bounce - therefore he has avenues of dismissal that Swann has less access to, like caught at slip, bat pad. At the same time he gets plenty of turn but he is more relentlessly accurate than Swann who begins to tire if he doesn't have early success. Objectively speaking in the same conditions, in the same matches, head to head: 1) Herath outbowled Swann - much better average and strike rate (nothing to do with overs bowled or lack of competing bowlers) -;type=series 2) Ajmal outbowled Swann - likewise a massively superior average and strike rate for Ajmal;type=series

    Swann's good but others are better

  • Michael on October 26, 2013, 15:23 GMT

    @Murali the greatest- The comparison between Ajmal, Herath and Swann is an unnatural one because of the surfaces Asian bowlers have at their disposal as opposed to the ones we bowl on.Let us see what Herath and Ajmal do in England and what are their records in WI ,SA, Aus and NZ? Swann outbowled Ashwin and Ojha in India last year as did Monty. Swann was equal at least with herath in SL-well SL do not have another bowler with serious class so he gets to bowl a lot overs, and Ajmal whilst good in UAE was not very far ahead of Monty out there, while comparisons from 2010 v Pakistan would put Swann streets ahead of Ajmal. I think really you need to look again at results and venues.The comparisons favour our guys....

  • Dileep on October 26, 2013, 13:03 GMT

    At Front foot Lunge:

    Actually Graeme Swann is NOT the world's best spinner and has not been the world's best spinner for quite some time.

    The latest ratings put both Rangana Herath and Saeed Ajmal ahead of him and Ashwin is virtually level with him in points.

    Without a doubt Saeed Ajmal has been the world's best spinner for the last few years: Turn, bounce, doosra, accuracy - he has it all and 160 odd test wickets in only 30 tests at an average of 26 say it all.

    Although Swann is a fine bowler, he was only very briefly the worlds number 1 spinner according to the rankings a few years back shortly after Murali's retirement and when the likes of Herath, Ajmal and Ashwin were about to emerge. To continuously refer to him as the world's best spinner is quite innacurate.

  • Aneep on October 26, 2013, 12:39 GMT

    To me Monty is a far better bowler than Swann, its just a pity that Monty's fielding and batting doesn't give him that edge over Swann.

  • ESPN on October 25, 2013, 9:27 GMT

    monty will never and never has been the answer to englands spin worries. after graeme swann, england will have no one capable pf competing at the same level as ajmal or jadej in the subcontinent. monty is a decent bowler, dont get me wrong, and would have been sufficient had there not been swann,but his bowling is not enough to compensate for his absolutely dismal batting and fielding. a good fielding team can be the difference between chasing 200 innstead of 270 on the last day. india made the mistake of being sentimental and bringing golden oldies to england a couple of years ago. they had the likes of dravid, tendulkar, sehwag, VVS and zaheer in that team, and had to hide all of them in the field. this meant the only players who could field were dhoni the keeper and suresh raina, who, as good a fielder as he may be, cant cover a whole field by himself. this meant that the useless bowlers had no back up in the field, and so the batsman who were all a few years past their prime, were needing to score huge totals just to stay in the games. ironically, just a month after that tour england then went to india, where india fielded a younger team, and whitewashed the tourists. what i am saying in all this is that england cannot afford to take youngsters out of the team and replace them with monty who is mediocre, but any wickets he takes he will cancel out with the runs he lets through in the field.

  • Charles on October 25, 2013, 8:19 GMT

    Monty is a fine bowler and I think he is unlucky that Graham Swann appeared when he did otherwise Monty was good enough to have bowled himself into the top 10 test bowling stats.

  • James on October 25, 2013, 4:43 GMT

    @Front-Foot-Lunge: Actually in India, Monty was a bigger match winner than Swann, and both of them out-bowled the Indian spinners. Which again is not saying much- Indian spin cupboard is completely bare. Their main spinner was Ashwin who doesn't spin the ball all that much (had they played the much maligned Jadeja in the first three matches, the results may have been different). Right now, apart from Pakistan (who misuse their resources), most other teams are struggling to find good spinners. This year, even Swann's performance has declined.

  • Baundule on October 24, 2013, 21:06 GMT

    Monty is the better spinner in matches he got chance to play. But for some reasons, he gets dropped, may be his poor fielding has something to do. The commentators and media are also harsh on Monty.

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