Watching from close quarters as part of the commentary panel for the India vs England Test series, Shane Warne was impressed “a lot” by Monty Panesar’s bowling, and wanted Alastair Cook to play five bowlers in the next Test.
“I have been a harsh critic of his (Panesar) in the past about his failure to improve. Yes, the conditions suited him but it was great to see his enthusiasm and watch him bowl so beautifully and trouble all the Indian batsmen,” wrote Warne in The Telegraph.
“I believe that no matter what the conditions are, he can now sum them up and take wickets. That is what experience does for you. Cook needs to take that on board and react by looking at how England are set up and start picking five bowlers. For the sake of the team, Matt Prior should bat at six. England can then pick two spinners and three seamers,” wrote Warne.
England fielded seven batsmen, including Prior, and a four-bowler combination that included three pacemen and one spinner, Graeme Swann, for the first Test in Ahmedabad that India won by nine wickets. In the second Test, played in Mumbai, England added Panesar at the expense of a pacer and the results were there for all to see. England won the Test by ten wickets.
About the Australian team he played in, which had four bowlers at almost all times, Warne countered, “But we had Glenn McGrath and myself who would bowl lots of overs as well as Steve Waugh and Mark Waugh as backup part-time bowlers. They took 151 Test wickets between them, and then Michael Clarke came along.”
About Cook, who Warne said should become more assertive in his choice of the team combination, Warne wrote, “What I like about Cook is his calmness. After losing the first Test and everyone questioning English batsmen against spin again it would have been easy to get carried away and try to change everything. It is tough when you lose the first Test but he showed character.
“His captaincy in the field has been imaginative and he used the right bowlers to the right batsmen. He then batted beautifully, giving an exhibition of how to bat in India. I doubt many tourists have come here and played better in these conditions. I have seen him play for the last eight years in county and Test cricket and I am sure his last innings was the best knock of his career given the pressure and conditions. The end result for him was never in doubt.”
Warne also felt that Cook’s presence as captain had helped Kevin Pietersen settle down in the side after the text message controversy. “This a fresh start for KP and England,” wrote Warne. “If the captain didn’t want him in the team then there is no way he would be back in the side. It was a good move from Cook to say, ‘you know what, we know we need our best batsmen so forget about everything else’. It sends a message to the media, all the players and KP: this is a new captain, a new regime and let’s start all over again with a clean slate.”
For more on the India-England rivalry, read the latest Wisden Extra.