It is always a sad sight to witness someone fall from grace. It is particularly poignant when the man in question is Monty Panesar. His release by his county side Essex recently has plunged his future into doubt amid reports that he continues to battle the personal issues threatening to bring a premature halt to a distinguished career.
The 33-year-old has seen himself fall completely out of the reckoning for national selection, but by his own admission he is not ready to give up on returning to the international fold. It was not that long ago that Panesar was England’s primary spin option. Even after the emergence of former Northamptonshire teammate, Graeme Swann, he still was a reliable outlet on the rare occasion the selectors opted for two spinners.
No more emphatically was that the case than in Cardiff in 2009. To begin, the decision to play both Swann and Panesar did not appear to be vindicated until Anderson and Panesar combined in one final stand to save England from falling 1-0 down by defying the Australians. The unfortunate truth is Panesar is effectively un-selectable. He has not featured since the Ashes whitewash in 2013-14 which also brought about the retirements of Jonathan Trott, the aforementioned Swann and the much talked about ostracisation of Kevin Pietersen.
While Finn was dropped because of issues over his bowling action, Panesar’s off-field concerns combined with the emergence of a new crop of talent look set to consign him to the history books. Unlike Finn, however, Panesar does not have time on his side and by the time the next international summer rolls around he will be 34.
There are still question marks about the viability of Moeen Ali as England’s primary spinner, while many, including Geoffrey Boycott, believe he is wasted batting at number 8. But the truth is, whereas eighteen months ago there was real concern about how to replace someone who contributed as much as Swann, Ali’s bowling has come on strong in recent months. Adil Rashid’s leg-spin is a better alternative to the slow left-armer, while Surrey’s Zafar Ansari, an all-rounder, has recently been called up ahead of the tour against Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
It is a staggering indictment on where Panesar’s game is at the moment that he was only recently recalled to the Essex team, having spent a part of the summer playing for Luton Indians in the Hertfordshire League.
It is also rather sad that off-field issues have overshadowed the spinner in the last couple of years. His release is the latest setback which also includes being disciplined for a ‘time-keeping error’ while at Essex, and his ignominious departure from Sussex after he urinated on a bouncer in Brighton.
Nevertheless, Panesar remains an iconic cricketer. Over the summer, Panesar claimed his 700th first class scalp. This is also a man who has claimed 167 wickets in 50 tests for England, including the prize scalp of boyhood idol Sachin Tendulkar back in 2006. He provided stability in the wake of Ashley Giles’ departure from the international side and was a better alternative to Shaun Udal who was merely a stop-gap.
However, it’s difficult to see a return for Panesar given his off-field controversies and the emergence of stable spinners who represent better alternatives moving forward.
Image courtesy of Naparazzi