Friday, 19 June 2009

What's happened to the magic of Monty?

Monty Panesar has earned cult-status in England - not just for his slapstick batting and fielding, but also because some shrewd judges considered him the finest spinner England have produced since the halycon days of Derek Underwood. But something has gone seriously awry. England cannot select him for the Ashes this summer.

After being dropped in the West Indies, and showing some improved variation when he was selected as second spinner for the final Test on tour, it was hoped Panesar would gain confidence getting wickets for Northants and would have fully regained his confidence by the time he was selected for Cardiff, a wicket that notoriously takes spin. In fact, the opposite has happened - to the extent to which it is probably only his England career (he still possesses a central contract) - that is forcing Northants to select him. The statistics are atrocious, and say it all. From 193 overs in the championship, he has taken six wickets for 520 runs at a cost of 86 apiece. With a white ball in his hand, he has taken two wickets for a total cost of 287.

Where has it all gone wrong? The enderaing, childish enthusiasm seems to have given way to uncertainty and a lack of confidence. Panesar does not seem to feel he belongs. Too often he gives the impression of a little boy lost, unable to think for himself, on his feet. How often has anesar actively suggested a fielding change, rather than passively be governed by his captain? Unintentionally, the man who has displaced him as England's number one spinner provided the most damning assessment, saying "I sometimes wonder how he’s got to this stage without wandering in front of a train or a bus". At 27, Panesar is perhaps suffering from a lack of perspective; in this regard, Grame Swann can almost be considered his anthithesis. How easy it is to say from the outside, of course, but a man whose life has been so governed by cricket may find it particularly hard to react when form falls apart.

England's thinktank, impressed by some admirable performances in the World Twenty20, must recognise Adil Rashid is a better choice as second spinner, if England indeed employ two for the first Test. Rashid would give England an extraordinarily long-tail, with Swann's ebullient hitting perhaps forced down as low as number ten.


Brian Carpenter said...

A timely post, Tim, and I enjoyed the Graeme Swann article which I hadn't seen before. I suspect that Monty's confidence - always fragile - has declined even further and it's hard to know how he'll get it back. It'd be interesting to hear from anyone who's actually seen him bowl this season.

I think it's now a given that if England select two spinners for Cardiff the second will be Rashid. I think there's plenty to build on and he offers batting and fielding options which Monty just can't match.

It's going to be a long road back for Monty.

Richard Lake said...

It's not just Swann and Rashid standing in his way. At Yorkshire, there is also the highly promising Azeem Rafiq, who in just two matches so far has taken 8 wickets and scored a century. He more of a Murali style spinner than a Swann and has come through the England age group set up.

To be honest, I'd be surprised if Monty played for England again. I suspect that a lot of his early success was because he was underestimated due to the inadequacies of the rest of his game. However, as you wrote about Duncan Fletcher, Tim, When Strengths become Weaknesses, it is time to go.

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