He’s back. Monty ‘the turbanator’ Panesar has been recalled to the England squad for this winter’s Ashes showdown. So order your Monty mask and songbook now at www.celebratelikeanutterwhenyoutakeawicket.com. Meanwhile, the selector’s one-armed bandit also threw up the name Chris Tremlett. Remember him? He’s the bowler that looks like a cross between Frankenstein and the Incredible Hulk, but has a body as brittle as balsa wood – which is why Hampshire were happy to release him last summer. There were few other surprises in the squad. Tim Bresnan was selected as the other reserve seamer, giving hope to those of us who think England will need five bowlers, while Steve Davies was picked as reserve wicket-keeper.
The selection of Monty was the logical choice. England seem determined to play a four man attack come what may – and in those circumstances Panesar is the best reserve spinner we have. The other options weren’t as palatable. James Tredwell hasn’t had a good season for Kent, and whilst Adil Rashid keeps improving, he is still learning his art and would be best employed as the second of two spinners. The decision to omit Rashid from the performance squad to ‘give him a rest’ was criminal (and totally contradicts the advice of the Yorkshire coaching staff) but picking Rashid in a four man attack would be too much of a risk. One only needs to look at the career of Beau Casson to appreciate the dangers of picking somebody too soon.
The selection of Tremlett, however, is more controversial than many experts are prepared to admit. The likes of David Lloyd (bless him) have reasoned that Tremlett is tall, aggressive and well suited to Australian wickets. All this is true, of course, but what does he actually bring to the tour party? Tremlett is a tall bang-it-in seamer who possesses exactly the same attributes as Broad and Finn. Ajmal Shahzad, however, offers something different: the ability to reverse swing the ball at a good pace. Unfortunately this fact seems to have escaped Geoff Miller, who totally failed to justify Shahzad’s omission at this afternoon’s press conference.
When asked why he didn’t think England needed a reverse swing bowler in the Simon Jones mould, Miller claimed that Tim Bresnan reverse swung the ball in Bangladesh last winter, so the bowlers England have picked cover all bases. If Miller thinks that likeable Tim is going to blow away Australia on flat decks with an old Kookaburra ball then he’s sadly deluded. Let’s hope the decision doesn’t come back to bite us, and that Tremlett has sorted out his lamentable fitness and attitude problems. Overall however, the selectors have done a decent job by sticking with the players who have brought us success this summer. Team spirit seems to be good, and we’re capable of retaining the Ashes if we play well … and get the rub of the green of course.
England Squad: Strauss, Cook, Trott, Pietersen, Collingwood, Bell, Morgan, Prior, Davies, Bresnan, Broad, Swann, Finn, Tremlett, Anderson, Panesar.