Panesar’s courage should be recognised


Monty PanesarI want to talk about England cricketer Monty Panesar.

Perhaps I should be focusing on the ICC anti-corruption unit’s investigation into Chris Cairns, Lou Vincent and Daryl Tuffey and the match-fixing allegations swirling around, but there’s not much to say about that just now.

No smoke without fire, or innocent until proven guilty? You choose. It’s only speculation because no facts have emerged, and I wouldn’t be surprised if none do.

Meanwhile, across the Tasman Michael Clarke’s Australians, spearheaded by paceman Mitchell Johnson, have been smashing England to pieces in some tasty Cricket commentator Henry Blofeld once referred to him as “Monty Python” and he is often the butt of commentators’ humour, some of it with rather a patronising edge.

It’s ignorance, actually. He has a degree in computer science, has 119,000 Twitter followers and usually induces a special cheer from fans when he walks out to bat, or when he fields a ball.

I’m not sure why commentators scoff.

If every England cricketer fought as hard and showed his courage, their team would be faring way better this summer.

Ashes retribution.

The English have been woeful – timid, directionless batting and insipid, tired bowling.

I have been rather taken with Panesar, though.

He was belatedly recalled to the test arena for the match in Adelaide last week, and went in at No 11 to try to help Ian Bell salvage something from another batting wreck.

Panesar isn’t as bad a batsman as was our Chris Martin, but he’s not far off.

He narrowly fails the “total rabbit” test because he has almost taken more test wickets than he has scored test runs – 218 runs, 165 wickets.

But Panesar is the natural No 11 in any batting lineup.

He was pummelled by Peter Siddle in Adelaide, being hit repeatedly on the helmet and body.

Finally he was bowled by Johnson, not because he shied away, but because Johnson was simply too fast for him.

It seems fashionable to make fun of Panesar’s batting. But let’s not forget, he helped save a test against Australia at Cardiff in 2009, when he and James Anderson lasted 69 balls to secure a draw that ultimately won the series for England.

He repeated the rescue act in Auckland early this year, when he and Matt Prior defied New Zealand in another last-wicket partnership.

Left-arm spinner Panesar hasn’t had a lot of joy from the England selectors.

He made his test debut in 2006 and his first two wickets were Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

Yet the selectors took a long time to realise he was better than Ashley Giles and then were fairly quick to replace him with Graeme Swann as the No 1 England spinner.

He keeps coming back, though, taking bundles of wickets in county cricket and forcing his selection.

Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, born in Luton (he’s an avid fan of the unfashionable Luton Town football club), is a crowd favourite around the world.

He wears a black patka, a smaller version of the full Sikh turban, and sports an impressive beard. This has induced cricket fans from Melbourne to Lord’s to turn up to tests as Panesar lookalikes sporting patka and beard.

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