With the India test series rapidly approaching it’s strange to think, in fact it’s outright bizarre, that we beat them in 2011 with spin. Swann and Monty were excellent. If anything, the Monster actually had the edge.
As a result we all simply assumed that when Swann’s elbow finally gave up the ghost, Monty would step up to replace him. The spin cupboard was stacked. These days it’s as bare as Kim Barnett’s head. What on earth happened?
In the absence of any specialist spinner worth his salt on the county circuit, many people are pining for a Monty recall. Indeed, we received this email the other day from Steve Rackett:
“Whilst there has been a lot of fuss over recent months concerning the sacking of KP, I am going to suggest that Monty has been cast adrift in an equally incompetent way. Indeed his treatment has been the most callous piece of man management that I can ever remember in British sport.
If Steve Finn’s bowling was broken by the coaches on the Ashes tour, I’d argue that Monty’s mind and spirit was managed in the same way. Yes, Monty might be a fragile character. But he is also a talented sportsman. The word from the ECB is that Monty is not going to be picked in 2014 because he has “problems”. It might just worth asking what – or more to the point who – has caused these problems. They just don’t want to talk about Monty.
Yes he’s had a couple of games at Essex where he has gone off the boil, and he was dropped for a game for missing a team meeting. But despite all he has had to deal with, he has still managed to be the county’s leading wicket taker in the 4 day format in 2014. He also managed a credible 2-27 off 4 overs in a match reduced to 21 overs – when he was on the winning side. Against, yes – Sri Lanka.
When Swann quit the Ashes tour it should have become apparent to the English management that Monty could be their man. Yes, he’s no Graham Swann. But he still has a great record as a test bowler. But he was treated appallingly in Australia and has been ditched and publicly humiliated in the months since coming back from down under. A good and caring management team would have moved heaven and earth to get a player like this back in the side, especially given the lack of alternatives. What a waste of a great asset.”
We can see exactly where Steve is coming from. The problem is, nobody quite knows what’s up with Monty. All we’ve heard publically is that he was recently dropped by Essex for poor time keeping, and that he’s not in the selectors’ thoughts due to off field issues. Many mainstream journalists have therefore dubbed him ‘unselectable’.
When situations like this arise – in other words, non-specific reasons are presented for a player’s omission – I usually assume the cricketer in question has personal problems of a sensitive nature: perhaps there’s illness in his family, he’s suffering mental health issues or legal problems, or his relationship with his other half is proving problematic.
I wouldn’t like to speculate which of these (if any) is relevant in Monty’s case, but it must be quite serious for the media to keep it under wraps. If it was purely disciplinary, then I assume more examples of bad behavior would have been leaked?
Having said that, there is still time for Monty to turn his career around. He’s 32 years old, so he could have a few good years left. However, in the meantime I believe England should stick with Moeen Ali.
I find it incredibly annoying that experts like Bob Willis and Mark Butcher keep referring to The Beard to be Feared as a part-time bowler. Just because he bats well doesn’t mean his bowling isn’t good enough. It is, after all, possible for a cricketer to be a genuine allrounder, rather than a batsman who bowls or a bowler who bats. Did people say Imran Khan was a part-time bowler?
I know this is stretching the point a little, but Moeen is a frontline bowler for Worcestershire. Fact. What’s more, he’s taken the third most wickets of any English spinner in the county championship over the last two years – that’s 91 wickets at 32 runs a piece (most of which were taken at seamer-friendly New Road).
When people like Willis keep referring to Moeen’s poor first class average (which is about 40) they are simply showing their ignorance. Moeen only started bowling seriously two years ago. His career stats are therefore misleading – almost in the same way that Jimmy Anderson’ test stats are warped by the terrible tours he endured early in his career.
What’s more, Willis explained away Ali’s successes against Sangakkara by claiming he is a much better bowler at left handers than rights handers. This argument is totally disingenuous. Most off spinners are more effective against lefties unless they’ve got a doosra up their sleeve (which, incidentally, Moeen is developing faster than any of his rivals).
What’s more, Graeme Swann was also a much better bowler at left handers. His test average against righties was in the mid-30s, whereas it was in the mid-20s for lefties. Grumpy Bob, much as I love him, is suffering from selective amnesia.
Alastair Cook needs to trust Mooen. Had he been selected as a specialist spinner, his performances would be seen as relatively encouraging: he bowls with decent control, gets some loop on the ball, and consistently put more revs on the ball than Herath at Headingley (if Sky’s gizmo is to be believed). He certainly looked no worse than Nathan Lyon on debut.
What’s more, there is no specialist spinner available who could currently do a better job than Moeen. If we were to pick one, as the likes of Butch seem to want, we would be picking a guy with worse recent stats than Ali. What’s the point in that?
Of course, we could throw in a youngster like Adam Riley or Ravi Patel, but would you want to repeat the mistake made with Kerrigan? As soon as he bowled a couple of bad balls Cook whisked Kerrigan out of the attack and ruined his confidence.
At least Moeen can develop in the knowledge he has a rather strong second string to his bow. The same could be said of Scott Borthwick and Adil Rashid, but Moeen will score more runs and should offer far more control with the ball than these leg-spinners.
The bottom line is there’s only one spin bowler available who’s better than The Facial Hair You Must Beware. He goes by the name of Monty Panesar.
James Morgan, with thanks to Steve Rackett