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'Monty is best finger spinner in the world'
August 10, 2006 14:48 IST
Last Updated: August 10, 2006 14:59 IST
In a complete u-turn from his earlier comments, England coach Duncan Fletcher described Monty Panesar as the best finger spinner in the world and asserted that he never cast any aspersions on the left-armer's chances of making it to the squad for the Ashes series.
''He bowled very well again. As a finger spinner there is probably no one who can match him in world cricket at the moment -- his control is very, very good,'' Fletcher said after the second Test at Headingley in which Monty took three wickets on the final day.
The England coach, who was surprisingly subdued in his praise for the spinner after his match-winning effort in the second Test, admitted that Monty has done well to stake a claim in the squad for the Ashes this November.
''We never said we weren't going to take him to Australia. There will be 18 players going to Australia and there was always a very good chance that he would be included. Now he is staking a stronger and stronger claim,'' said Fletcher.
Fletcher, for once, did not attribute the left-armer's success to the pitch and said Monty had proved himself capable of bowling on different tracks.
''This has been a different pitch to the one he did well on at Old Trafford, a lot slower. Danish Kaneria was uncomfortable against our batters but Monty turned it again,'' Fletcher said, comparing the performance of the two rival spinners.
Meanwhile, Ian Botham continued with his lavish praise for Monty and said the spinner -- apart from being a folk hero and the best left-armer in the world -- was the best bowler England had right now.
''Monty Panesar is no longer just the form horse who is currently England's best bowler - he is already the finest left-arm spinner in the world,'' Botham wrote in his column for the Daily Mirror.
''Any lingering doubts that Panesar is the real deal as a Test match-winner (and I didn't have any) were dispelled at Headingley. To bowl with as much control as Monty did in both innings was a tremendous feat,'' he added.
Pointing to Monty's phenomenal rise since making his debut, the former England captain warned the Australians to be prepared for a ''spin jewel'' and a match winner.
''Monty has taken 14 wickets in those two victories with an economy rate of around 2.6 runs per over. Watch this space, Australia -- England have unearthed a spin jewel of their own,'' he said.
Botham joked that he ''would rather write a suicide note than tell the Aussies how to handle Monty's craft and variations'' and said the most dangerous aspect of his bowling was the turn and the consistent middle and off stump line.
''The batsman has to play almost every ball. At the point of delivery, Panesar stays tall and releases the ball at the highest point of his bowling arm's arc,'' Botham added.
Botham also felt that the element of mystery surrounding his bowling also gives Monty a lethal edge. The former skipper said that top batsmen around the world have found it difficult to handle and this is likely to continue for some time.
''Even some of the best players of spin in the world have not been able to cope with Panesar's drift, bounce and spin. Not only is Monty growing in stature, but he is giving his captain an element of mystery that so many England sides have been lacking for years,'' Botham felt.
''And the mystery is this - how can a finger-spinner turn the ball so far and yet maintain a disciplined line and length?'' he added.
Botham termed Sajid Mehmood's good performance in the Test as another encouraging sign and said he had the capability to fill in the void if Steve Harmison failed to make it to the Ashes.
''The abrasive nature of Australian pitches should encourage Mahmood's reverse swing, so watch this space, too, you Aussies - I think this lad is only going to get better,'' he said.