Left-arm spinner back in Ashes squad after battling off-field issues.
England confident Panesar’s problems behind him
LONDON // England insisted Monty Panesar’s personal problems were behind him as they included the spinner in a 17-man squad for the defence of the Ashes in Australia.
Long a fans’ favourite for his sheer enthusiasm and undoubted ability to spin the ball, the left-armer found himself making the wrong sort of headlines last month after he was fined by police for urinating on night-club bouncers in Brighton on England’s south coast.
It was all too much for the 31 year old’s then employers Sussex, who promptly released Panesar, now completing the season on loan at rival county Essex.
But the fact remains Panesar is England’s second best spinner behind off-break bowler Graeme Swann, a point emphasised by the wretched Test debut of Lancashire left-armer Simon Kerrigan, whose eight wicketless overs in the drawn Ashes finale at The Oval last month cost 53 runs.
Geoff Miller, the England national selector and himself a former Test off-spinner, confirmed Panesar’s inclusion in a largely predictable squad led by captain Alastair Cook and featuring the bulk of a side who have helped the team win the last three Ashes campaigns when he announced the tour party at a Lord’s news conference on Monday.
Slightly less predictable was Miller’s reply when asked if Panesar had sought professional help for his off-field problems and whether it had helped effect a change in his behaviour: “Yes, and yes.”
And as far as Miller is concerned, the talent that has seen Panesar take 164 wickets at 33.78 in 48 Tests, and produce a match-winning performance against India in Mumbai last year, remains intact.
“Monty had his problems, which we’ve worked hard to rectify in the last six weeks – and he has too,” Miller said. “He’s a proven international bowler, who has shown what he’s capable of doing on many occasions for us.
Miller added: “He’s very prepared to let his bowling do the talking for him, so I’m prepared to accept that. He’s an experienced international player and it’s up to him to actually produce the goods for us.”
England’s squad contains three players uncapped at Test level in Durham all-rounder Ben Stokes, former Ireland fast bowler Boyd Rankin and Yorkshire batsman Gary Ballance.
There was though disappointment for Somerset’s Nick Compton, who failed to force his way back in after being dropped as an opener in favour of Joe Root for the recent 3-0 home Ashes series win despite scoring two hundreds in nine Tests.
And seamer Graham Onions again found himself on the outside looking in even though he has led county champions Durham’s attack this season with 67 first-class wickets at a miserly average of just over 18 apiece.
“Congrats to all selected for Ashes,” said Compton, who has scored 889 runs in the County Championship this season, via Twitter.
“Disappointed to miss out. Honoured to have been a part of a successful year for England cricket,” added Compton, grandson of England great Denis Compton.
Onions, once more frustrated in his bid to add a tally of nine Test caps, did not keep quite such a check on his emotions, telling his Twitter followers: “Disappointed is an understatement, absolutely gutted.
“I know I can be immensely proud of my efforts and what I’ve achieved this year. I pride myself on my county performances and will keep doing that.”
However, there was joy for Michael Carberry, with the Hampshire batsman, 33 next week, included more than three years after playing his lone Test against Bangladesh in Chittagong.
“It is a bit unexpected but I am delighted,” Carberry, one of the beneficiaries of Compton’s omission, told ageasbowl.com.
“It is a great thrill to get another go at international cricket. It is beyond my wildest dreams and another challenge I am looking forward to.”