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Selectors must not turn backs on Monty Panesar in spin cycle

Wednesday, 12 December 2012 - 2:18pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph
It would be a big mistake to allow Panesar to drift into the margins after final Test - Australia would fear him.

During the last two Tests this England side have performed at their very best for the first time this year but they still have to finish off the job. Unfortunately, in the world of sport nobody remembers a 2-2 result but for the rest of our cricketing lives we will talk about this tour if England win or draw the next Test.

I always look at series and ask did we expect England to win before it started? In 2005 I don't think many expected us to beat that Australian side. Before then in 2000-01 we defied expectations by winning away in Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

The Ashes of 2010-11 was a great result but we expected England to beat that Australian side.

But on this tour I never gave England a chance. I thought it would be 4-0 after the first Test. I thought we would be hammered.

This has been an amazing start for Alastair Cook as a captain. He has led the way on and off the field. He is the one who demanded Kevin Pietersen be restored to the side. It was the right call: bring back your best player and manage him.

Whatever happens in this Test, the tour will be remembered for Cook's batting. It is so important at the start of your reign to play well yourself. A brilliant sign for a captain is asking whether the team would have won without you and in this case there answer is: not a chance.

There were whispers from a few of the senior players that they didn't think Cook would be a good captain and able to talk to them like Andrew Strauss. But he has answered all those questions quickly by being himself and earning respect.

It is proof that changing the captain can be good for the team. As much as everyone was sad to see Strauss go, a team moves on quickly. There is new vibrancy and players have to prove themselves once again.

No matter who the new captain is, as a player you are looking over your shoulder. There is a fear the new captain might not like you and could bring in his own man, which creates energy and a new buzz.

When you win every dimension must be right: the backroom team, ethics and preparation. England's team director, Andy Flower, and batting coach, Graham Gooch, have rightly been criticised this year as England have struggled in the subcontinent against spin. They played some average cricket.

But in the last two Tests England have played to a high standard which I don't see dropping. I think they will thrive on the pressure over the next few days and win.

A large part of the success has been down to the recall of Monty Panesar. This is England's last Test in Asia until they return to India in 2015 and Panesar could drift back into the margins.

It would be a shame if that happened. To play two spinners in the side regularly, England need someone in the top six to bowl a bit of seam.

Ravi Bopara would allow Monty to play but he is out of the picture. If Matt Prior moved to six and Tim Bresnan improved to bat at seven, then a spot would open up for Monty, but it is hard to see.

There are really only two grounds in England where you might consider two spinners, but luckily both will host an Ashes Test next year. At Old Trafford and the Oval Monty could have a chance of playing and I think Australia's batting line-up would be vulnerable against him.

Even so, England have great back up for Graeme Swann. In this era of spinners, Monty would easily get in any other team in the world.

Australia would love to have him. I'm not saying Swann and Panesar are as good as Shane Warne and Stuart MacGill but it is a similar situation. MacGill could not get in the Aussies team but would have walked into any other.

Panesar has learned a little more variation but has essentially stuck to what he is good at. He does not bowl many bad balls, he is very controlled with his line and lengths, and that extra two or three mph he bowls at, compared to the Indians, is perfect.

He is a real character and I love watching him bowl. You can tell the crowd like him and there is renewed energy in the fielders when he comes on to bowl. There are not many players like that around, which is why England have to be careful not to discard him too easily.

With Swann's elbow a concern, he will need protecting so he is fit for the big series and the 2015 World Cup in Australia.

We have seen rotation of the seamers in the past and we may see it with the spinners over next year or so. Monty is a good enough replacement for England to consider resting Swann. If Pietersen or Cook is injured, England are a batsman light but not in any bowling department.

They have everything covered which will provide England with many opportunities to win Test matches over the next couple
of years.

 




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