Birmingham: While Rohit Sharma was going bonkers in the middle against Bangladesh on Tuesday, Monty Panesar was closely observing Sharma’s temperament and, at the same time, Shakib Al Hasan’s subtle variations from the stands at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
Panesar, who has played 50 Tests for England, joined Sportskeeda for an exclusive mid-innings Facebook Live session interacting with the fans from Birmingham as India played Bangladesh in the World Cup. In a candid chat, the 37-year-old left-arm spinner opened up on numerous subjects.
What do you think of England’s journey so far in the 2019 World Cup?
I think England have done remarkably well. They are the best team in tournament and against India they showed their best cricket. It’s the first time that the Indian spinners were put under pressure and you could see that India didn’t have any answers.
You were part of the England squad in 2007 World Cup. What difference do you see in this side compared to the 2007 team?
I think over the last three or four years, England have played a brand of cricket that is far superior than all the other teams and they are the ones who have set the benchmark. They are the team that has started to get 330, 350, 380... You saw the West Indies-Sri Lanka game. Teams of smaller nations are actually catching up with England. They have the ability to score 330, 350+ as well.
And I remember Roger Bannister -- he broke the 4-minute mile and the year after that, 20 other athletes did the same. That’s what England are doing to ODI cricket. They are setting the benchmark and other teams are breaking it and it’s great to see. It’s brilliant to see for World Cricket that all teams find that anything above 330, 350 is chaseable but we are yet to see 400 (in the World Cup).
I thought today, the way India batted, they were probably going to get to 400, but to get to 400, you need the whole 50 overs to be immaculate and you can see that teams are clever now with the bowling strategies, they now know how to pin teams back, so 400 in this tournament I think everything has to be spot on for the whole 50 overs.
Who is the best finger spinner according to you now?
I think the best finger spinner at the moment is Shakib Al Hasan. The pressure that he is under, delivering as a batsman, but also how clever he is with his bowling as a left-arm spinner. You may think I may just say that because I’m biased and that I’m a left-arm spinner. But I like the way that he is experienced and how he handles pressure, I think he is the best finger spinner at the moment.
There is a lot of hype surrounding the wrist spinners…
I think the wrist spinners have done really well in this tournament. Adil Rashid has been probably slightly disappointing... I think it’s the pressure of being the host nation that sometimes can affect your game, affect the mindset of how you are playing... but I think (his) best is yet to come.
What do you think about Indian wrist spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Yuzvendra Chahal?
It was the first game that they have actually been put under pressure, against England, and you can see that when both of them go the distance in tandem, India are put under pressure.
So, it’s really important for India’s chances to make it to the final... they need either one of the two spinners to do well. If I was the coach of the Indian team Ravi Shastri or captain Kohli, I would say, ‘Please... I don’t need both of you guys to do well in each game, I just need one of you to do well and the other can (get hit for runs) and India should make the final.'
Do you think finger spinners can survive in this generation?
Finger spinners will always be there and will always survive. It’s difficult to put pace on the ball. It’s easy to score runs when pace is on it. So spinners will always play a huge role in all forms of the game because pitches are getting slower, wickets are breaking up. Finger spinners, wrist spinners will always play a huge part in any form of cricket.
How difficult was it for you to overcome all the psychological issues that you had faced in recent times?
I think in South Asian communities we have mental health issues and after the age of 18, males have the highest rate with some sort of issues. I have seen some Bollywood stars speak about this in India and I think some in cricket as well. So I think, in our South Asian communities, we have this issue and we should talk about this openly.
We talk about our physical health very easily. We go to the gym. At home, we can speak to our parents about certain foods for a good physical... to help our fitness gym regime. We should be able to talk to this at home with our families, with our parents, the emotions that we are going through, what are we feeling right now, what are our thoughts in the mind, what reality am I connected to right now, does it meet the reality that I want to be in the future? These conversations are important. Don’t isolate yourself... that’s the key message I would say to have good mental health.
Who is the best batsman (limited-overs) in the world right now?
On current form, right now, Rohit Sharma. He has batted brilliantly throughout the tournament. Yet another hundred. How many hundreds is he going to keep scoring? Could it be in the final that he plays his best and gets a double hundred again? I have been hugely impressed with Rohit’s temperament and his calmness at the crease and how he has delivered under pressure. You know fifty percent come from the top three -- Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli and Rohit.
What will be your plan to Virat Kohli?
I would get him off strike. Simple as that. I would find ways of getting him off the strike and putting pressure at the other end and maybe we can change Virat Kohli’s game plan! I would not look to attack Kohli, he loves intensity, he loves aggression, I would go the other way. He feeds off pressure, he loves batting under pressure. I would change the game plan, either get him off strike or don’t give him any pressure. Take the intensity out of the game because that’s when he bats well at his best. So that’s what I would do. Psychologically, take the intensity away. What he loves about cricket, reverse it, so we can get him out.
Whom do you think is the best captain in the world now?
I think it is Virat Kohli. He is the best. The way he has handled the top order, team selection, he has had a few injuries and he is still able to maintain the high-level of performance and that’s very hard. Especially with this Indian team, with Dhawan not being there... Vijay Shankar now has had an injury... suddenly he has to deal with injured players, bring in new team members... maintain that level of performance.
His fitness levels are high (as well), and he demands a high level of performance from everyone and if you want to get into this Indian team, you have got to meet that demand. He has been brilliant.
What about the Monty Panesar (autobiography)?
I had obviously some challenges with the book. I hope that this book helps other people in their life, the challenges that they come across, they find some methods in this book to overcome their challenges and get back to their goals and their positivity in life.
Your World Cup prediction: India or England?
I think Australia will win the World Cup. They seem the strongest team at the moment. But we need England, India in the top four. From a fans’ perspective, we saw a sell-out on Sunday (India-England match in Birmingham).
What are your plans for the future?
My plan for the future is to play professional cricket again. I want to play county cricket this summer. I feel I have a lot to offer in terms of my bowling. Mentally and physically, I feel fit.
Also read – World cup head to head statsPublished 03 Jul 2019, 15:50 IST