Exclusive Monty Panesar interview: How England won in India in 2012

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May 8, 2002
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When England’s batsmen, led by Sir Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen, out-batted India’s in 2012, while England’s spinners, Monty Panesar and Graeme Swann, outbowled theirs, it was a once-in-a-generation achievement - unless Joe Root’s squad can do the same in the next six weeks. On that tour of late 2012, as in the rest of life, the darkest hour came just before dawn. England looked at a slow turner in Ahmedabad for the opening Test and bizarrely picked three seamers (who took one wicket for 255 runs) instead of a second spinner - as the man who was omitted, Monty Panesar, vividly recalls. “I think the data analyst had the captain’s ear,” Panesar said ruefully. “But in Test cricket you are better off using your necktop, not your laptop.” And this from a man who used his laptop to gain a B.Sc in computing and management. So, the tail having wagged the dog, England duly lost the first Test by nine wickets and went for the second to Mumbai where Panesar was reinstated. Whereupon he took 11 wickets, dismissing Sachin Tendulkar for only eight runs in each innings. “Why don’t people say the first dismissal was one of the balls of the century, like the one Shane Warne bowled to Mike Gatting? I bowled it quickly and it got in-curve and dipped, he (Tendulkar) thought it would skid on and aimed to midwicket.” But the ball gripped, turned past the Master’s outside edge and hit the top of offstump. “In the second innings I turned one to Tendulkar then the next was a straight ball - I undercut it to make it skid on and he was leg-before.” The Master’s double-dismissal made India suddenly realise they were, for once, vulnerable to England. In the Wankhede stadium you could almost feel the shock-wave. “They had played a Ranji Trophy game on the same pitch about a week before the Mumbai Test and because it was turning on day one, that got us into the game when they batted first. The Indian spinners would have been more likely to out-bowl us on a flatter pitch,” Panesar said. Panesar had no less amazing figures in the first innings of the third Test in Kolkata: 40-13-90-4. “Apparently Rahul Dravid (who had retired by then to become a commentator) said this is the best spin bowling by an overseas spinner I’ve seen on a flat pitch. He said it to other people and I heard about it.” How to win in India - by the men who have done it Some said Panesar owed his success in India to having grown up at Northampton when it was the only pitch in England to encourage spinners. Panesar said he owed his success in India more to the type of ball, the SG. “If you have a ball with no seam on it, it comes too slow off the surface, that’s what people don’t realise. The key was that the seam on the SG ball stayed hard for longer, like a Dukes ball in England.” Panesar pays tribute to two of his England coaches. “I never had dinner with Duncan Fletcher or anything like that but whenever he talked to me there was some great stuff. Monty, he said, always watch a bowler’s body language after he has taken a wicket: if he really celebrates after taking a wicket with an ordinary ball, you know he’s not confident. I saw India’s leftarm spinner Pragyan Ojha really celebrating after dismissing Pietersen with straight ball, and we thought we’re on top.” Andy Flower’s advice was another key to England winning their first and only Test series in India since 1984-5. As head coach Flower said to the players, according to Panesar: “I don’t expect you to go out there and concentrate flat out for two hours, but switch on for the two critical passages in each session, the first five to ten minutes and the last five to ten minutes. In between you’re allowed to switch off.” Having won in Kolkata, England forced a draw in the last Test in Nagpur to win the series 2-1. Swann took 20 wickets in four Tests, while Panesar took 17 in the three the analyst allowed. Swann had the better average, 24 to 26, while Panesar had the better economy-rate, 2.49 runs per over to Swann’s 2.66. Moeen Ali, Dom Bess and Jack Leach will be doing well if a quarter of their overs are maidens.

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