Ashes 2023: Monty Panesar on England’s need for spinners, getting selection right and Ben Stokes
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Monty Panesar played 50 Test matches for England, taking 167 wickets in the process. The spinner took part in several Ashes battles during a 7 year test career, and he’s had his say on the current series which has moved on to Manchester this week.
Chatting to OLBG on behalf of NationalWorld, Panesar spoke in full about the Ashes series so far, who has been the main man of the series and the spin bowling options for both sides.
Paensar talked about how England’s captain has been his stand out player for the series so far. “For me, it's Ben Stokes and there's no question about it. The way he has stood up, that 155 at Lords in the fourth innings, there's not many players in world cricket who could do that.
“Yes, England fell short, but the way he stood up single handedly showed the rest of the guys that they were getting carried away with Bazball. They need to be smart with the approach and he's standing up again as the captain of this team.
“He's showing the rest of the team how to do it. You have to pick the right moments to show aggression to this Australian bowling attack. Some of the other players need to get better at doing that, but Ben Stokes has been really good with his captaincy so far.
“There's always the concern that he can't bowl many overs, so it’s a question of how England are going to manage their bowling load. When they have the five bowlers at full fitness, Ben Stokes can come in and bowl a few overs to give the rest of the guys a rest and so they can make a bigger impact.”
Panesar added: “Headingley was the perfect game for him as captain because of the extra pace of Mark Wood. It's also how strong his mind is, that mindset of a leader in a team. I think he gets immense satisfaction from getting the best out of other players and as a leader he really thrives and enjoys that aspect.
“You can see how he's interacting with players like Mark Wood because he's missed a lot of test matches. Seeing him come in and bowl as well as he did and bowling the quickest spell we've seen in a long time is great to see.”
England’s spin options have been limited and a significant topic of conversation during the series, and Panesar believes England have missed having a front-line spin option.
He said: “Jack Leach has done really well under the leadership of Ben Stokes, and he's grown as a cricketer with this aggressive and positive style, he's made him grow as a spinner. But there aren’t many options out there who are specialist spinners because of the T20 game.
“Moeen Ali is kind of the last remaining spinner, Rehan Ahmed is another one, but when you're playing all forms of the game, then it becomes difficult to craft your skill. That's where I believe the ECB needs to develop a spin programme to make sure the development of spinners is still there, and captains are encouraged to give spinners a go in four-day cricket.
“Rather than play that medium pace seamer who might take wickets, give the ball to a spinner to give them more of a chance. England need more spinners coming through, otherwise what will happen is you won't pick specialist spinners.
“Players who bowl spin well in T20 cricket and can bat a bit will be selected over the specialists. That's how this Bazball team selection is at the moment, especially with the way they play such aggressive cricket.”
Another highly contentious subject has been England’s choice of wicketkeeper, with Jonny Bairstow keeping the gloves amidst calls for Ben Foakes to be handed the chance. Panesar believes England have made the right selection choices.
“I think they have; Ben Foakes is a great wicketkeeper, but he averages 40 against spin and 28 against seam. He's been out twice in the space of 15 deliveries against the West Indies when the ball is above 87mph.
“So, he isn't actually that well equipped against the quicker bowling, but when you look at Jonny Bairstow famously at Old Trafford against South Africa last year, he took them on. They were 50-5 and he scored a magnificent 100 in that game.
“It comes down to being able to produce aggression in the right moments with Bazball and Ben Foakes hasn't got the game for it. He's a good wicketkeeper, but this England side have got the selection spot on with Jonny Bairstow because he is more likely to score runs. And if Ben Stokes isn't bowling, there's more pressure on the bowling and the batting line ups.
“This is essentially a T20 side with a couple of specialist test match players. That's the team they're selecting, if there was another specialist batsman then they might go with Ben Foakes. I just think they need the five seamers playing with the option of Ben Stokes bowling.
“It's just difficult for Ben Foakes to get into the side currently, but if England lose the Ashes and Bairstow isn't in form going into a series in India, then I can see Ben Foakes coming back in.”