Panesar example earns Miller praise
Monty Panesar’s decision to play grade cricket in Australia this winter reflects his and other players’ determination to represent England, according to national selector Geoff Miller.
England yesterday named Panesar in a 16-man squad for the Test series with Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates, where Andrew Strauss’ side will travel to in early January.
Panesar’s inclusion owed much to 69 wickets for Sussex in 16 LV= County Championship Division One games this year. Not content with that, however, the left-arm spinner chose to play first-grade cricket for Randwick Petersham in Sydney.
That could have occupied his entire winter but Panesar, who was a non-Test playing member of the 2010-11 Ashes squad and last represented England in the 2009 Ashes Test at Cardiff, will now arrive in Dubai on January 3.
“These players know that they’ve got to do everything possible to stay in this side,” Miller told ecb.co.uk.
“We’ve reached number one in the world now. You don’t do that without full preparation, fitness factor, technical ability, and you have to keep it going.
“So having a break, you’ve got to take that opportunity ‘a’ to break and ‘b’ to make sure you’re ready at whatever stage. Going over and playing in foreign conditions, on foreign surfaces can only help.”
While Panesar took advantage of his domestic summer ending in mid-September, other squad members benefited from England’s two-month break following the limited-overs tour of India in October.
Their availability meant Miller and his fellow selectors were able to pick England’s strongest possible tour party.
”We’ve had niggling injuries,” Miller said. “You’re always going to get niggling injuries, but the management of these players and the fitness factor is very strong at the moment.
“They look after them, the backroom boys make sure that everybody’s as fit as possible. The niggles have come through so it’s a strong side, a strong squad.”
In the first calendar year that England did not give a Test debut since 1953, Miller was happy to call on players he had done so before for the UAE trip.
Back-up wicketkeeper Steven Davies, an Ashes tourist last winter, is the only member uncapped in Tests.
“It’s a consistency we’ve carried through for a few years now and we’ll continue to do that,” Miller added.
“We want to be consistent and give them an opportunity but we want to have players knocking on the door to attempt to overtake if possible.
“We’ve got to manage these players; there’s a lot of international cricket played now so every now and then we’re going to have to give somebody a break.
“To give somebody a break another person’s got to come in and he’s got to be international quality so the strength in depth is vital.”
Ravi Bopara’s inclusion is a further mark of consistency. The batting all-rounder featured in England’s last two Tests, against India during August, in place of the injured Jonathan Trott, who recovered from a shoulder injury to play in September’s NatWest Series.
Bopara excelled in that one-day rubber, including a limited-overs international-best 96 at Lord’s, and, despite a disappointing tour of India, that form secured his ticket to the UAE.
“We talked about all kinds of players but at the same time as us going to the UAE, the Lions will be going to Bangladesh so the peripheral players can go with the Lions and get some cricket in as opposed to just hanging about maybe as a reserve,” Miller revealed.
“We know what Ravi’s capable of doing. I don’t think there’s a necessity for him to go in the Lions and he’s justified his place in the squad. He played well towards the end of the (home) India series so the consistency means he gets the nod.”
Should England’s squad remain fully fit for the first Test of three, at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium from January 17, captain Strauss and team director Andy Flower will have some tough decisions to make over selection.
Given it will be more than a year since England lost a Test, Miller has every confidence they will continue to make the right calls.
“I think the two Andys have done a fantastic job on selection,” he continued. “They understand the surfaces that they are playing on.
“Alright, it’s a little bit different in the UAE because we’ve not played on that surface before but they’ll decide if they need to play an extra spinner or an extra batter or an extra seamer, whatever it is.
“They’ll wait and see, they’ll do the preparation for the Test, build up to the Tests in the nets, see how the wicket’s developing or the surface is developing and select accordingly.”