Monty Panesar part 2

Most people seemed to thing Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, was being a bit hard on Monty Panesar when he said before the third Test at Headingley: ‘I think Monty is a very good bowler, but we have to produce 11 players who can produce two of the departments efficiently, whoever is playing for England‘.

In the general over-excited chatter about Panesar’s potential, to which I made this contribution, Fletcher’s comments were a distinct note of caution which drew a lot of attention because they were so out of step with the mood music. He was quite right to be realistic and it is indeed too early to start thinking of Panesar as a great player (great players are those for whom exceptions can be made). His philosophy of expecting international-class contributions from his players in at least two departments is a good one in theory and the results have largely backed him up. For what it’s worth I fully agree with him on this.

The only slight issue I have is with the sophistication of his analysis. He is talking about contributions in two of three departments: bowling, batting and fielding. This is a very simplistic analysis of the roles that team members play in a Test Match side. If you consider the following roles then you can make a better assessment of the value of a player to the team:

  • Opening batsman
  • Middle-order strokemaker
  • Lower-middle-order batsman who can make runs with the tail-enders
  • Wicket-keeper
  • Close fielder (catcher)
  • Run-saving fielder
  • Strike bowler
  • Economical bowler
  • Captain
  • Morale officer
  • Senior pro

Some of these roles have more value than others. A good captain could probably manage without any senior pros. A team with four strike bowlers may not ever need an economical bowler to contain the runs at one end.

With this analysis we can see that Panesar’s value to the side has more than one dimension. His excellent control means that he will hardly ever concede runs quickly so he is a very valuable economical bowler. Furthermore he can bowl many overs because he is not exerting himself as much as a fast bowler. Without a containing spinner you need two economical seam bowlers or a bits and pieces player who can bowl a few overs to give the others a rest.
On the other hand, here we have a spin bowler who can take wickets and who has already won matches on good wickets despite being a relative novice. It is difficult to overstate the importance of this – individual match winners are a rare breed; when they are young and improving they are a precious thing to be looked after with great care.

This isn’t the end of Panesar’s contribution. The morale of a team is crucial to those 50-50 situations that turn draws into wins and gives people the determination to avoid defeat. Panesar’s effect on the team’s morale is easy to see. His obvious delight at just playing cricket is such a welcome contrast with the Old Pro atmosphere that infected the England teams of the Mike Atherton and Nasser Hussain eras. It’s difficult to escape the feeing that Panesar (and Kevin Pietersen for that matter) would play even if they weren’t being paid. They are plainly not hoping for rain so they can go down the bookies.

As a relatively young man, Panesar might in time develop his game so he can contribute in other areas as well. But my contention is that is already doing plenty to make him an automatic selection on any wicket against any opposition.


2 Responses to “Monty Panesar part 2”

  1. 1 mushyp August 29, 2006 at 22:47

    Using Fletcher’s criteria, how does Ali Cook get a game? He’s a magnificent young batsman, but his fielding is nothing special. Saying that, Pietersen shelled a handful during the Ashes too, and nobody for one second doubted that he should be playing. Why? Because — like Panesar — they are match-winners.

    Although he’s handy in the slips, I can’t see any justification why the Wheelie Bin should get back in the side if Panesar is fit

  1. 1 Ashes prediction « Dominic Sayers Trackback on November 23, 2006 at 09:57

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