The naughty boys of cricket have reached the end of the road
Real cricket is about failures, trouble makers and those on the verge of losing their job. Monty Panesar is one; Jesse Ryder is another and both have been in trouble again this week.
Long ago I decided all slow left-arm bowlers were mad and Panesar’s behaviour recently has just confirmed that verdict.
A month ago Panesar was involved in an incident outside a night club at 4 a.m. Why a nice lad from a well-to-do Indian family was in a club at dawn when most husbands are at home with their wives and glad to be comfortable in their own bed is difficult to understand.
I am told that Panesar and drink did not get together until recently. Perhaps it was something to do with his move from Northamptonshire to Sussex but clearly he could not handle the alcohol and the result is that Sussex has urged him to move on.
Sussex’s committee has avoided using the word sacked but it obviously did not want him and the sort of headlines he and his family have brought to the club.
Whatever his present troubles we all hope he forgets this brief period in his life when things have gone wrong and that he manages a better second half to his career. His talent should not be wasted.
He has not made the best of his gifts as Shane Warne has pointed out but there have been times when his brisk spin was too good for, well, Sachin Tendulkar. There is a space for him to bowl alongside Graeme Swann, who has had his own gremlins to combat and who might be, seeing that they both played for Northamptonshire, the right man to have a word in his ear.
There are also many wise men at Essex where he has immediately found a bolt hole. I wonder if he realises how lucky he is, first to be able to transfer his skills so readily and secondly to be in the midst of some of the shrewdest men in the game.
The inner council at Essex consists of Graham Gooch, crusty old England captain 20 years ago, Nasser Hussain, crusty young England captain for four years from 1999, Andy Flower, the quiet and efficient England coach and Doug Insole, now in his late 80s, but as shrewd as ever.
If those hard-headed men cannot put Panesar on the right track no-one can. They have often, either singly or together, got high level spin bowlers to join Essex when their careers at other counties were at an end and given them a second lease of life.
If Panesar sees sense and reacts well to their encouragement these men have influence with the England team and will see that the word gets to the right people. It could be that the little scene at the night club turns out to be the best moment in Panesar’s life. England has not found another spin bowler and he may yet tour Australia this winter.
I hope so and so will many others who love the sight of a spin bowler weaving his way past the bat and, especially in Panesar’s case, celebrating a wicket with joy and passion and many a wild whoop.
We are too far from the distant cricket-politics in New Zealand to judge the rights and wrongs of Ryder but I would rather see him hitting Panesar’s best flighted spin into the farthest stand than read yet another piece about his drinking.
Yes, sporting failures give the crowds a chuckle but there is a limit and these naughty boys have reached the end of the road.