Alastair Cook vows to keep Monty Panesar on the straight and narrow on Ashes tour
Captain acknowledges need to watch troubled spinner as England leave for Australia
Wednesday 23 October 2013
England's management will keep a close eye on Monty Panesar to ensure he is "looked after" throughout the two-month Ashes tour so that no further off-field issues arise. Panesar was included in the England party for the tour to Australia despite a troubled domestic season, during which he was fined by the police for being drunk and disorderly.
England arrive in Perth on Thursday, and before leaving Heathrow, Alastair Cook, the captain, admitted that he and the coach Andy Flower had to be aware of keeping Panesar "on the right path". Panesar was arrested after urinating on a nightclub bouncer in Brighton, an incident that led to him being released by Sussex, his county, in August. He spent the remainder of the season with Essex, Cook's county. He has since had counselling arranged by Neil Burns, the former Essex wicketkeeper.
"Clearly he had a tough summer, and probably a tough year or so," said Cook. "A lot of us didn't quite know what he was going through off the field if we are being totally honest. I can speak from what the guys at Essex have said about him, about how he has coped with playing for Essex and I certainly think he's on the right path.
"He will always have to work at that. He's said he is ready to go again. We are going to have to work well with him on tour, look after him on a long tour, but the bottom line is he is a fantastic bowler. If something does happen to [first-choice spinner Graeme] Swann or it is a turning wicket like they can be in Sydney we need our best spinners available.
"We have got to make sure we look after him off the field. Sometimes you play as a second spinner and you know you might not play games. It can be very hard to carry the drinks at certain times. We need to get Monty in the right frame of mind so if he's called upon he is ready to play. We have to be aware that sometimes he struggles with long tours – that is fairly common knowledge – and we look after him. That is one of the responsibilities we have as a leadership group."
Panesar played the last of his 48 Tests in India in March, a tour on which he thrived thanks to regular cricket. He benefited in part from the meltdown suffered by Simon Kerrigan in the final Ashes Test that left England's selectors with little alternative but to recall him.
Cook accepts that he himself will have to bat better in Australia than he did in this summer's Ashes, where he failed to score a century and averaged less than 30. On England's last tour Down Under, 2010/11, Cook was outstanding, scoring 766 runs at an average of 127.7. His runs were key to England posting imposing first-innings totals, and to winning three Tests by an innings.
"Top order runs out in Australia are vitally important," said Cook. "We saw last time when we went there that big runs make a massive difference. Sometimes in England 240, 250 can be a good score but the majority of the time in Australia 400 is the bare minimum in that first innings if you want to get into the game."
Australia made consistent early inroads into England's batting this summer, with Jonathan Trott also struggling for runs. "They bowled well and I didn't execute as well as I could have done," acknowledged Cook. "I could have done a lot better. As a captain you want to lead from the front, you want to set the example and you want to score big runs."
Kevin Pietersen did not fly out with the rest of the squad having been given compassionate leave following the death of a friend. He will join up with the squad in time for the opening warm-up match in Perth on 31 October. The first Test begins in Brisbane on 21 November.
Sciver secures T20 final spot
England reached the Tri-Nation Twenty20 Women's Series final after a hat-trick from Natalie Sciver and five wickets from Jenny Gunn sealed a 19-run win over New Zealand in Barbados.
Sciver became the first England player to take a T20 international hat-trick as the Kiwis were dismissed for 106 in Bridgetown. England will now contest Saturday's final against hosts the West Indies.
Meanwhile, leg spinner Imran Tahir got five wickets for South Africa in the second Test as Pakistan collapsed to 99 all out on the opening day in Dubai.
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