Cow Corner

Monty Panesar: The miracle cure?

In five Tests earlier this year in subcontinental conditions, England were supposed to have 'learned lessons'. A winter later, many were wondering precisely what those lessons were.

India were piling on the runs and England had only one bowler out of five who was posing any threat at all. And there you were, thinking the batting was the big worry.

But if Graeme Swann, who turned in heroic first-time figures of 4-85 from 32 overs (India were 238-0 from 58 overs against the rest of England) was so effective, surely England missed a trick by not including Monty Panesar?

India named two spinners, after all. Commentary teams from both nations were busy debating 'where's Monty?' on their television coverage.

It would be very, very easy to go along with the theory that Panesar, the long-fingered twirler, would have put the shackles on India, that he might have helped England reach a better position by stumps. Spin worked, seam didn't.

Tim Bresnan's underwhelming 10 overs, when he was short on pace and found no movement, betrayed a dwindling faith from his captain. Samit Patel, if not a part-time spinner then certainly not a full-time one, bowled 14 overs by comparison. Clearly, had Panesar been on the field, he would have been busy.

But alas, team selection is not made after 90 overs of play - and while the decision looks wrong now, there was logic behind it.

Had Steven Finn not suffered an injury, then he would have played as the tallest and quickest member of the attack. The balance would have been the same: three seamers, one spinner and Patel.

Once Finn was out of the equation, Bresnan's ability to reverse-swing the ball won the day. Where there have been dusty wickets, home and abroad, Bresnan has managed to make the ball talk at times when often his team-mates struggle for incisiveness. Bresnan was found out, with conditions meaning the ball could scarcely have kept any straighter had it been fired from a gun rather than slung from the bowler's arm.

Bresnan tried and failed, but there's nothing like not actually playing any cricket to make you appear good at cricket.

Panesar has been hidden from most fans' view in recent times by not being an England regular, and while he did perform strongly in the UAE during this year's Pakistan series, here are some statistics that may have weighed heavily on the selectors' minds when it came to picking the team:

-          Panesar against India — 19 wickets at 53.57

-          Panesar in India — 11 wickets at 55.9

-          Panesar in Asia — 35 wickets at 40.65

-          England Test results when Swann and Panesar both play — W0 D3 L4

Picking Monty might well have been the right selection, but it's a hell of a lot clearer once you're knee-deep in the Test.

Cowers would argue that Alastair Cook's most damaging decision on his first day as England Test captain came half an hour before play in Ahmedabad.

MS Dhoni flipped a coin, Cook had two choices, and inexplicably said 'heads' when the correct answer was 'tails'. Before the skip knew it, India had chosen to bat first, and the advantage was firmly with the hosts.

The pitch in Ahmedabad has been relaid ahead of this match, ostensibly to produce a more competitive wicket. What they have created, it seems, is the typical India pitch on steroids — even less assistance than usual for the seamers, even more and earlier than expected for the spinners. That's the nature of the game.

Batting should get progressively harder as the dustbowl wears, the best chances of putting runs on the board are now, and England are a long way down in the match.

It might yet be that Bresnan's batting will prove valuable in a way Monty's would not have — or Patel's for that matter, another man whose place would be at risk if Panesar were to be shoehorned into the team. Cowers would also worry about Monty in the field, were it not for the fact that England's standards have fallen so far as it to render that potentially irrelevant.

Matt Prior missed out a couple of times, James Anderson ran past one, Jonathan Trott had the audacity to suggest he might have caught one that clearly spent the best part of a second on the ground.

As opening days go, it was not one that screamed out that England had a great chance of ending a 28-year run without a series win in India. But Panesar's presence or absence would be unlikely to turn the contest on its head.