Mudhsuden Singh Panesar

Monty Panesar’s fielding was memorably described as “slapstick” by Derek Pringle in the Telegraph today. He seems prone to fumbles and spilled chances (Panesar as well, boom boom). Anybody who has played cricket knows a talentless fielder when they see one. When Kevin Pietersen dropped his first six chances in Test cricket it was clearly a blip, one that he has since rectified by catching everything that has come to him.

No such expectations accompany Panesar’s fielding which will remain for the remainder of his career a weak part of his game. Some commentators are warning that his fielding is so weak that the remainder of his career may not stretch to the Ashes campaign this winter. It’s my opinion that this would be an enormous error on the part of the selectors, if indeed they are contemplating dropping him.

Monty’s fielding will doubtless improve. He is currently affected both by his lack of talent and his nervousness as a new boy at the highest level. In addition, from what I know of county coaching, he is unlikely to have had the opportunity to learn techniques that could compensate for his lack of natural ability. This will be addressed by the England coaching team.

His batting is apparently better than he has so far demonstrated in the middle. Again, specialist coaching will help him make the most of whatever skills he has. He may become a reliable number nine in time.

It is for his bowling that he has been selected, and it is his bowling that marks him out as a genuine international cricketer. Whatever nerves he displays in the field or with the bat seem to disappear when the ball is thrown to him. His deliveries have not turned as much as some of us hoped when his selection was first discussed but it is his flight, his loop, his control that have impressed anybody who loves spin bowling. He is a young man but seems to have a natural understanding of how to draw a batsman into an ill-advised stroke. He should have a long career ahead of him if the selectors recognise that his gifts outweigh his deficiencies.

What turns me from an objective admirer into something of a fan is his transparent delight in his successes. English people, particularly journalists, have a tendency towards cynicism. To be cool and not overtly keen is often seen as a good quality. I have no idea why this is but it irritates me. Increasingly. To see an Englishman whose keenness is supremely overt is a welcome and refreshing sight. Few others in the national team demonstrate this with the notable exception of the aforementioned Kevin Pietersen, whose Englishness is adopted. Pietersen’s puppyish delight in simply being on the field is now matched by Panesar’s unselfconscious celebration of a wicket.

Here’s to not being cool. Here’s to freedom of expression.


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