Botham throws weight behind ~~undroppable~~ Monty

Published: Tuesday, August 1, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:In an obvious reference to coach Duncan Fletcher, talismanic all-rounder of the yesteryears Ian Botham said Monty Panesar is the answer to England's quest for a match-winning spinner and people should stop asking him to improve his batting and fielding.

In his Daily Mirror column, the former England captain threw his weight behind Panesar, whose match-winning effort in the Old Trafford Test against Pakistan failed to convince coach Fletcher who insists the youngster's poor batting and fielding make him an uncertainty for the Ashes series.

''It's time to stop patronising Monty Panesar about the need to improve his batting or fielding and accept him for what he is - the match-winning spinner we've craved for years,'' Botham asserted.

''To think that England were even toying with the idea of leaving out Panesar at Old Trafford beggars belief, but now he has taken two five-wicket hauls in the last three Tests he should be undroppable,'' said ''Beefy', as Botham is known as, in his inimitable style.

Botham also made it clear that he doesn't quite subscribe to Fletcher's notion that cricketers have to be multi-dimensional.

''Coach Duncan Fletcher was restrained in his praise of Monty's performance, recycling his view that international cricketers need to be multi-dimensional.

''Of course you don't want liabilities in the field or tail-enders who can barely hold a bat, but to win Test matches it's often helpful if bowlers take wickets - and eight in one match is pretty handy by any stretch of the imagination,'' he reasoned.

He, in fact, was amazed at the turn Panesar generated in Old Trafford and said, ''Panesar turned the ball more on Saturday than any England spinner since Derek Underwood.'' He pointed out to Panesar's rich haul in the match and the stature of his victims.

''And to gauge the value of his contribution you only need to look at the calibre of the batsmen he dismissed. Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan are ranked in the world's top 10 batsmen and have 53 Test tons between them.

''Yet Monty winkled them all out, and accounted for five of Pakistan's top six, in 27 overs of high-class spin bowling,'' he argued.

''His 25 Test victims to date also include Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid.

''Here is a bowler who does not just shore up one end and keep it tight while the quicks have a breather - Panesar is an attacking option,'' Botham said.

Panesar and Steve Harmison, who took 11 wickets in the Test, could prove a deadly spin-pace combination, like the Shane Warne-Glenn McGrath duo, he felt.

''His double act with Steve Harmison was one of the best pace-and-spin combinations I've seen for some time and it reminded me of the way Australia use Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne in tandem when they are going for the jugular,'' Botham elaborated.

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