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Panesar hunting Ashes berth

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Alison Mitchell | 09:00 UK time, Friday, 23 July 2010

In the first two weeks of the Phil Tufnell Cricket Show (Wednesday nights at 2000 BST on BBC Radio 5 Live), we have learnt that James Anderson does a great Alan Hansen impression, Alastair Cook had a secret crush on a girl called Tina at school, and Tuffers' retirement from cricket was hastened by a slice of processed ham.

We have also had excellent cricket chat with Aussie broadcaster Jim Maxwell, Geoff Lawson, the former Australia fast bowler and ex-coach of Pakistan, and ex-England players Mark Butcher and Graeme Hick. Mark brought his guitar in for the first show and would have had Tuffers and I waving lighters in the studio had fire regulations allowed it.

If you have missed any of the fun, you can listen back to each show via the BBC iPlayer website.

The first show featured an in-depth interview with Muttiah Muralitharan in the build-up to his final Test match. He spoke about how much he would like to reach the magic 800 wicket milestone, a goal he achieved in dramatic fashion on the final day of the Test against India in Galle.

Murali also revealed his belief that although he finishes his career with the record number of Test wickets, his long-term rival Shane Warne was always the more knowledgeable cricketer of the two.

Monty Panesar and Luke WrightMonty Panesar's first season at Sussex has been a steady one

This week Monty Panesar chatted to me as we sat in his car, parked on the boundary of Coggeshall CC in the Essex countryside, where he was playing for Sussex 2nd XI.

It was a far cry from where he found himself a year ago, batting heroically to save a dramatic opening Ashes Test in Cardiff. But Monty was on fine form and in such a relaxed situation his personality came out much more than in most previous interviews.

Gesticulating constantly with those enormous hands of his, he presented an impassioned case as to why he should make the plane for this winter's Ashes. He described how he and Graeme Swann could be a perfect pairing, replicating the success of off-spinner John Emburey and left-armer Phil Edmonds in Australia in 1986-87.

He talked about batting at number three and fielding at backward point for Bexhill CC, the club in the Sussex League who he has been playing for during the Friends Provident t20 competition. He spoke of his awe for Sachin Tendulkar (his first dismissal in Test cricket) and the terms of endearment and respect he uses for the great man whenever the phone rings. Yes, Sachin is in Monty's mobile.

He also recalled the moment he first saw a patka, mask and beard being worn in the crowd as his cult status grew. However, he was quick to point out that while the support of the fans is hugely important to him, his focus is on trying to rediscover his old self and the joy of bowling to get back into the England squad.

So how far away is Monty from the Ashes trip? He has not been on an England tour since the Caribbean in early 2009 and by then Graeme Swann had already taken over as first-choice spinner following a successful Test debut in India.

James Tredwell and Adil Rashid are officially above Panesar in the pecking order for the second spinner's slot, having been named in England's performance squad for this summer. However neither has had much chance to make an impact, which might just leave the door ajar should Panesar have a storming end to the season.

However, Sussex coach Mark Robinson told us that Panesar should not be rushing to get back into the international fold.

"This goal of his to get it back as quickly as he can is dangerous," he said. "He's got to find himself again. What we're working hard on with Monty is to forget England to a degree, get back to being that smiling person, that bloke who had fun with the crowd and with his team-mates, who met each wicket with a massive celebration.

"That's the guy we want back, and in the last three or four weeks he's certainly come to terms a lot more with himself."

Monty has taken stick in the past for both his fielding and his batting, despite that heroic blocking in Cardiff and the crowd-pleasing six he hit off Murali during the Trent Bridge Test of 2006. But the biggest criticism has been the inability to think for himself and set his own fields - and Robinson says that problem continues.

"Monty will never be able to completely set his own fields and do his own thinking. But what he will be is a top-class spinner who can get the ball up and down and spin it hard. If he relaxes on his fielding and stays switched on, he's as safe a fielder as anyone, and his batting is only going to go one way."

A half-century for Bexhill before he left will certainly have encouraged the 28-year-old. In the County Championship he has taken a solid 26 wickets in nine matches for Sussex. The ball was coming out beautifully when he appeared against Worcestershire recently in a Clydesdale Bank 40 fixture.

Rashid is having a strong season and is probably favourite to take the second spin-bowling position on the plane to Australia, but Monty's race is on.

The Phil Tufnell Cricket Show is on Wednesday nights from 2000-2130 BST during 5 live Sport.


  • Comment number 1.

    Monty was there when England needed a new spin hero and was an endearing character on the pitch, and most knowledgable cricket fans accepted his limitations while his bowling did the job. But growing up in the test match arena needs a player to build on all facets of the game. This certainly became too much for him and the support waned within the England camp.

    Unfortunately now there is even greater scrutiny of players (Kieswetter & Morgan)while I'm sure Monty could be better equipped to handle this I'm not sure he is needed by England. Spinners bowling in tandem is rarer than ever and the Aussies are unlikely to prepare wickets that will take spin bearing in mind their limited resources in this dept.

    Anyway Rashid has put in another good performance with wickets and runs and the England team demands all-round cricketers now.

  • Comment number 2.

    I can see Monty struggling for some time to get back into the England set-up let alone team. While he is clearly the best left arm spinner available, he is now so far down the list of choices that it is difficult to see how he would make the Ashes squad.

    I think his main problem is that he is very much old school, that is he is first and foremost a bowler. Batting wise he is a traditional no.11. No doubt he has improved in recent years, but he is never going to be a Swann, Treadwell or Rashid. The game now requires teams to bat as deeply as possible and these guys fit the bill whereas Monty is a luxury. It also isn't as if he is streets ahead of others in terms of his bowling, because he isn't. If you could find a match winning bowler who can't bat (I might suggest that Finn could be in that category) then you would play him, but while Monty has won England a few he has also disappointed us a lot of the time. I think even Warne criticised Monty for failing to take his game to the next level, a lack of variety in his bowling has meant that most teams know what to expect from him.

    Come Ashes time I would like to see England take Swann and Rashid.

  • Comment number 3.

    It would be good to see Monty back at his best, both in terms of his bowling and his enthusiasm on the pitch. However, I agree with the point above that because he is a pure bowler (i.e. any batting contribution is a bonus, not an expectation), he has to be producing match winning performances on a fairly regular basis to justify selection, and over the last couple of years this hasn't happened.

    I hope he is ultimately able to take the constructive criticism well and develop his game, both in terms of increased variation in his deliveries and in taking more responsibility for getting his field settings right. If he can do these and at least become something other than a liability in the field (which to be fair he has jsut about managed) then he should be back in the England squad. He's still only 28, so for a spinner could easily have another 7 or 8 seasons at the highest level.

  • Comment number 4.

    im sorry, but i can't help but discard stories such as this.
    of course he is going to say things such as he and swann can work together. while we are at it, i think i'd bowl well with swann, and open well with strauss!
    sadly panesar's days have gone (for now at least). he had good first year-18 months and then found his lack of variation and guile to be a stumbling block.
    were he to take 60-70 wickets in the CC then i think he'd deserve a recall.
    he is a slighty comic cricketer, which is why i guess we all still like him, but to keep banging the panesar drum is getting old now as he's done nothing of note to warrant a recall. as the blog states "a solid 26 wickets in nine matches for Sussex". enough said really.

  • Comment number 5.

    Can England afford to take a bowler "who will never completely be able to set his own fields" to Australia? I'd hazard not. This seriousness of this issue is amplified by the fact that it should be even easier to set your own fields when you only have one delivery (though to be fair, I haven't seen him this season, so he may have developed a little - others can comment).

    Variable, preferably steep bounce has always been Monty's greates weapon and he is very unlikely to get that in Oz. He is quite capable of giveing the ball a rip, but decent turn alone is rarely enough to defeat a test batsman.

    I like the guy and have enjoyed his performances for England and his enthusiasm for what he does. He is certainly a character but I think that's the only thing about him that warrants a piece such as this - I think Tuffers has as much chance of getting on the plane come November.

  • Comment number 6.

    Very good comments from #1, is likely Rashid, Tredwell or even Blackwell would be considered ahead of Monty, just for the all round contibution they are likely to make.

  • Comment number 7.

    Despite being a huge Monty fan, the comments above largely hit the mark. That said, if he remains consistent at Sussex, then who knows what the future holds. I think his reputation as a 'comic' cricketer is slightly unfair. His enthusiasm and peculiarities should not be entirely ridiculed, but at least partly celebrated as signs of his determination and desire for him and his team to do well. Moreover, he is a great entertainer, and a wonderful character. Still, he needs to produce more before he stands a realistic chance of rejoining the England camp.

  • Comment number 8.

    Including the current round of games Panesar has 27 wickets at 25.48 in Division 2 compared to 49 at 27.88 by Rashid in Division 1.

    On top of that Rashid has 505 runs at 50.5 compared to good old Monty 92 at 10.2

    Enough said.

  • Comment number 9.

    I'd be happy for England to leave Adil alone for another 9 months, let him develop as a spinner for Yorks, maybe tour with the A or Lions this winter where he'll get some actual game time rather than have him carry the drinks, play the odd game and be ruthlessly dropped for a couple of bad overs in T20 a la last winter.

  • Comment number 10.

    Modern cricketers have to be able to do 2 out of bat, bowl, field.
    Sorry Monty, never have done, never will.

  • Comment number 11.

    Sorry, but if being a 'character' was enough to make you an England left-arm spinner, Ray East would have been a fixture in the side. Monty should, as his coach says, concentrate on improving himself as a county player - he should only be picked for England again when he has proved he is a far more rounded cricketer than up to now.

  • Comment number 12.

    Although Monty has done it in the past, it seems that he still has a way to go before he terrorises any international batsmen again, but why do so mamy people persist with the idea of bowlers who bat a little, if Monty could still take 5fors on a regular basis he'd be head and shoulders above the many decent spin bowlers who may score 20s or 30s with the bat.

    It's great having allrounders who are good enough at each discipline, but there seems to be too much emphasis on bits-and-pieces players in the England setup instead of picking the best players in particular positions, the wicket keeper being the prime example of this, but we've tried too many reasonably good bowlers just because they can slog a ball, even though they've clearly not been good enough at their own specialisation.

    These are great players in 20/20, but get found out very quickly in Test matches.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Monty will never be able to completely set his own fields and do his own thinking."

    I find this comment most worrying.

    Surely part of the skill of any bowler is to outwit or out think the batsman.

    If your County coach thinks this is beyond you - What hope has Monty got ?

  • Comment number 14.

    Posts 8 and 9: agree totally. Adil is having a great season with us and confirming that barring Swann he's the best English spinner in the country. His relatively high average suggests to me that he's got at least another couple of years before he's a true test bowler, but his time will come. For the moment let him carry on playing CC matches for Yorkshire, developing his art so when Swann retires he's ready to take over as pretty much the finished article. Let him go on England A Tours to help him learn but don't even bother playing him in ODIs and T20. A spinner, particularly a leg spinner, will learn little in the shortened form of the game and instead it's likely to hinder his development in unlimited overs (proper) cricket. Adil's batting is a bonus which I think will put him in a great position to eventually bat at least at 8 if not 7 for England (depending on them having a true all rounder - unlikely, and where the keeper bats) As for Monty, you did well for a while but unfortunately England has moved on and you haven't, thanks for the memories, the unbridled enthusiasm and that innings in Cardiff.

    PS Yorks fans don't despair too much when we lose Adil to England, we've got Wainwright and Rafiq coming along nicely.

  • Comment number 15.

    Panesar is yesterday's news!

    Why are folks wasting valuable time on this limpet? It must be a slow day at the office...huh?

  • Comment number 16.

    Typical Southern bias yet again, if Adil Rashid were playing south of Notts do you think Monty Panesar would even get a mention? On his not too recent form(he's not bowled well for over 2 years) he can only be classed as a county trundler. Give up giving this 'also ran' the coverage he simply doesnt deserve.

  • Comment number 17.

    All I can say is :- GO MONTY..MONTY..Go MONTY PANESAR.....

    I'm not a real cricket fan ,but I enjoy a good game .
    Monty Panesar has :-Colour,Flare and Talent which has got to be good for the game.. Come on Monty once your stuff.

  • Comment number 18.

    He may well have some flair but is very short on ability when compared with Rashid

  • Comment number 19.

    Monty's problem wasn't one of not developing. It was one where he listened to too many people, tried new things, and let his strengths as a bowler lessen. At the time, Monty was a victim of the 'every spinner needs to turn it both ways' argument. The doosra was being talked about by many commentators of the game and the apparent ability to bowl one got even someone like Alex Loudon into the international arena.

    Since then, we've seen something different. Swann has come on and demonstrated that you don't need to turn the ball both ways. A good off-break and excellent variations of pace and flight work for him. He knows his game, he knows his strengths and he bowls to them. By the end of his time with England, Monty wasn't doing that. People wanted Monty to become our Murali when a far better role model would have been Anil Kumble. Kumble wasn't a huge turner of the ball but possessed great control, learnt to vary his flight and pace, and bowled the googly as the variation.

    Could Monty come back for England? Yes. Again, people mock him but his record despite the downturn in form still stands up. His strike rate in Tests is better than Dan Vettori, his average is within a sniff of Danish Kaneria, and there's no other left arm spinner in England who would challenge for a Test spot (quiet at the back, you people suggesting Yardy as a Test spinner!). I suspect England will go with Swann and Rashid for the Ashes but Monty needs to approach his Sussex time as a rebirth. Graeme Swann used his county time to rebuild his career and Monty can do the same. He's never going to be a batting whizz but his fielding is better than some people make out (just as Tuffers suffered despite taking some good catches, one of Lara in the West Indies coming immediately to mind) and he has got ability with the ball.

    Rashid will get the talk for his all-round ability but he is still a completely unknown quantity at international level. For all the barracking, Monty can point to 126 Test wickets in the bag as proof that he can bowl at international level. I for one am happy that, perhaps for the first time in my lifetime, England have a genuinely top quality off spinner with an exciting leg break bowler and a proven left arm spinner to call on. It's disappointing that people can't see the positives in English cricket. Maybe they want Eddie Hemmings back or Athers bowling leggies in Tests again...

  • Comment number 20.

    rashid would be my choice of a second spinner but i'd be more than abit surprised if montys played his last game for england

  • Comment number 21.

    I find it very annoying that Adil Rashid has been almost abandoned based on a single over in a T20 when he should not have been playing T20 for England anyway! He passes the all-rounder test of batting average (6 runs) higher than bowling average and has turned-in consistent results over several years. However, Yorkshire are now batting him at 8, below Tim Bresnan, so his chances to bat are limited and his high average this season is based on a series of 50s and NOs.

    What to think of Monty? After his initial impact, his results started to tail-off as sides worked him out. Some sides worked him out alarmingly fast too (8 of his 11 wickets against Australia came in the first of his 4 matches against them; his 19 wickets against India have come at 53.6; his last two Tests against Sri Lanka gave him a combined 2-227 on turning tracks, etc.). In a straight fight between Monty and a multi-dimensional spinner like Swann or Rashid, Monty is always going to struggle. When he came in initially for Ashley Giles, it was stated by many commentators that he needed to average at least 2 wickets per match more than Giles to justify his place because Giles did not just bowl, but also was a solid No. 8 and an excellent close-catcher and added so much more to the team. People talk about picking specialists and not players who add bits and pieces, but Tuffers himself played in a side with a tail of specialist bowlers and can vouch for how unsuccessful it was because, once the sixth wicket went down, whoever was still left from the top order, you knew that the innings was just about over; and, as a result, the specialist bowlers rarely had enough runs to defend; that side of specialists did not win many matches.

    Monty has gone through hell and re-invented himself, which says a lot about him. If England need an emergency spinner because Swann has injured himself on the morning of a match, Monty would do a good job, but you cannot be confident that he would be able to do it for two or three consecutive matches.

  • Comment number 22.


    Graeme Swann tasted international cricket when he was young and wasn't good enough. The decision to drop him was utterly correctly and he went away and made himself into an international class cricketer. Adil Rashid when he played last year was not good enough. The constant hype about him being back for England is absurd when you consider he's got a grand total of 3 wickets at ODI level, a bowling average of over 60, and his main claim to international fame was scoring 31* in a losing cause.

    I'm totally happy with the decision to get Rashid playing a full county season. He's batting well and bowling plenty of overs. Bowling a full season for Yorkshire will do a lot more for his development than playing pointless ODI games against Bangladesh.

  • Comment number 23.

    Yes Andy. You should not be selecting a young leg spinner for ODIs and T20. It really is a no-brainer! However, you should not take him on several consecutive tours and not play him in any games because then you don't learn anything about him and he doesn't learn either. The handling of Adil Rashid has not been good.

    However, that is very much a secondary point.

  • Comment number 24.


    I don't disagree. I said many times on the BBC forums that it was ridiculous for three spinners to go to the West Indies last time round. From memory, I think the Lions went to New Zealand and we had the like of Gareth Batty bowling there. England got nowt out of Batty bowling and Rashid carrying drinks.

  • Comment number 25.

    I'm afraid that I simply could not understand the logic of taking him with the main party instead of the Lions if he was not going to play. Granted, in his initial call-up for India he was warned that he would not be considered for the Tests - even though he should actually have been a strong candidate to play in at least one of them - but the Caribbean tour was a criminal waste of his time.

    Adil Rashid should have played two or three of the three day tour games to see what he can do. I have a feeling that he could turn into a genuine all-rounder, adding options to the attack. One of the few successful periods in the '80s was when England played Edmonds and Emburey together, with three seamers and had an attack that was suited to all conditions, inclusing those long days when the pitch offers little and you have to winkle out the opposition somehow or, at very least, keep them quiet.

    When Monty first came on the scene I was excited by the possibilities that he offered as a genuinely attacking spinner. However, as sides worked him out (see the stats above) he became unable to adapt and was not able to create the pressure to make wickets fall at the other end. Personally, I think that Monty should feel a little insulted that James Tredwell plays ahead of him, but neither of them should keep Adil Rashid out of the side for long :-).

  • Comment number 26.

    I can't believe that some people still have a problem with Monty's batting.. Sure it's not great but we don't expect Strauss or Cook to bowl do we? If Monty is back to his best then he should be considered regardless of his batting - this is test match cricket let's not forget and we don't need to pack the lower middle order with bits and pieces players or biffers as in the 20/20 or 50 over formats.

  • Comment number 27.

    If we're talking about Sussex spinners going to the Ashes then surely Michael Yardy stands more of a chance. While spinning is definitely the second string to Yardy's bow he has proven effective in the shorter form and his batting is of good quality. He could conceivably play the Marcus North role if a pitch was turning.

    Sorry Monty, you've been reasonable for Sussex but nothing more.

  • Comment number 28.

    Panesar gets in the face of the umpire everytime the batter is struck on the pads...often with the ball drifting clearly down leg stump...perhaps he ought to take a look at Law 36 before making a fool of himself.

  • Comment number 29.


    I'm not so sure that sides worked Monty out. When he played at Cardiff in the Ashes, I was sat between midwicket and mid on when he was bowling, and it was apparent how flat he was bowling with a lack of impetus through his action. He didn't look like the same bowler I'd seen previously. I really do think Monty's problem wasn't so much that he was worked out but that the strengths he possessed when he started weren't worked on in favour of trying to develop him in other ways, like trying to get a batsman with an effective cover drive to become a regular hooker of quick bowling. For all the talk of variations, we last saw Warne in this country take wicket after wicket essentially bowling a big leg break and a straight ball as variation.


    Many Australians currently don't want Marcus North playing the Marcus North role! I suspect Australia might go for something radical and pick both Smith and Hauritz against England this winter. The talk may have been of Australia's batting being poor based on one session at Headingley but the reality of the entire tour in England this summer has been that their bowling outside of Shaun Tait has been poor.

    With regards to Michael Yardy.... no he is not a Test spinner.

  • Comment number 30.

    The page by Kevin Pietersen entitled," How I became an England player" was very interesting. However can I suggest a follow up? " Why should he remain an England player?" His stats are terrible. Bell, Shah, Bopara and others have been sent back to their counties for time in the middle. K.P. appears to be undroppable and no comentator seems to want to debate the issue. Are you all scared of offending Strauss and Flower? On form over a long time, Pietersen should be treated like any other player not like the blue-eyed boy. He hasn't scored a decent score for months and hasn't played a match-winning innings for years.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    The vocation of a spinner calls for patience, determination and perseverance in the spinning craft. Recently retired spinning greats Anil Kumble and Muralitharan are shining examples of dedication and devotion to the art of spinning and counting their bag full of wickets. Monty has shown his appetite for the big events. He should keep trying and enjoy his bowling and cricket. Best wishes to the bowler in his come back efforts.

    Dr. Cajetan Coelho


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