Panesar's poser: take the magic, live with the farce

The bowling is an asset, but does it outweigh the fielding?

Spectators in the RES Wyatt stand at the City End may be quieter and more soberly dressed that the colourful mobs in the Eric Hollies Stand that runs down the square-leg boundary at Edgbaston, but Monty Panesar, has captured the imagination of both these stands in the second Test.

In the Wyatt Stand, they picked up a refrain that had been used in Panesar's first Test at home, at Lord's earlier this month: "Monty, Monty, give us a wave." Panesar, reluctant to disappoint, but anxious not to appear to his colleagues not to be concentrating, gave a discreet half wave while looking purposefully toward the bustle in the square. When he jogged down to fine leg when he had finished an over, the noise from the Hollies Stand was not quite so fond. "Monty, Monty, scratch your beard," they yelled at the first Sikh to play cricket for England. Yesterday, as the level of expectation fell, all they could think of was a rhythmic chant of his name, but it was the only one that excited them.

The Panesar phenomenon - is the newest addition to English cricket so far this summer: Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, aged 24, born in Luton, is playing only his 38th first-class game, having played his first Test in Nagpur on 1 March. But there is an ambivalence about the attention that is paid to him.

When the first evidence of this appeared at Lord's, Matthew Hoggard said he did not know whether the crowd was backing Panesar, or putting him under pressure. The answer from Birmingham is that they are doing both, even in yesterday's muted performance - no Panesaric mistakes in the field, but no buzz off the wicket in a first spell of eight overs for 29 runs.

Monty Panesar is good news. He is a left-arm spinner with greater variety and much more spin than Ashley Giles, whom he replaces while Giles recovers from his multiple injuries. Of the two, Panesar is the attacking spinner with a lovely action, and the greater natural talent. The other difference is that Giles is a sound batsman, with a Test average of 20.72 at No 8, and a fine fielder in the gully. The bad news is that Monty is a natural No 11 batsman.

Worse, as a fielder, he is a joke. The crowd laughs out loud when Panesar simply forgets how to stop a ball short and concedes two runs unnecessarily. His colleagues do not share the joke. Andrew Flintoff shakes his head in disbelief - when Panesar dropped a simple catch at mid off in Sri Lanka's first innings, Liam Plunkett looked faintly sick.

On Friday evening, Muttiah Muralitheran was asked about Panesar's prospects. "It's too soon to say," he said. "It's a question of how quickly Panesar learns about Test cricket, and that only happens to a bowler who gets plenty of chances."

No doubt about the talent, but there's the rub. How long will the coach and the players tolerate the debit side of the Panesar balance sheet? Panesar's problem is clear from watching him closely when he is fielding. He comes forward tentatively, and, instead of stopping, picking up and throwing in one easy movement, every action is uncoordinated. Put simply, Panesar is not an athlete.

Other teams have tolerated incompetence in the field from their bowlers. Phil Tufnell tried without noticeable signs of improvement, while Peter Such may not even have tried. Courtney Walsh became celebrated for his incompetence in the field, though historians of Test cricket claims that no fielder has ever been worse than India's own Sikh left-arm spinner, Bishan Bedi, who played in 67 Tests and took 266 wickets.

Bedi makes the case for perseverance. It receives influential support from Derek Underwood, who pleaded with the selectors to persist with Panesar. Underwood declared that Panesar is an attacking spinner capable of bowling sides out twice. His fielding and batting may improve, but they are unlikely to meet Duncan Fletcher's high standards for tail-enders. To justify his place, Panesar will have to start taking more wickets, and to do so pretty quickly if the laughter is not to turn to tears.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
scotland decidesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping First Minister up at night?
Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Life and Style
techApple has just launched its latest mobile operating software – so what should you do first?
News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
newsThe 'extremely dangerous' attempt to avoid being impounded has been heavily criticised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmSo what makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes the hobby look 'dysfunctional', they say
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week