What’s the story?
Ahead of their side’s trip to India next month, Cricket Australia have roped in former England spinner Monty Panesar as their spin bowling consultant to assist the slow bowlers, who will be expected to take a large share of the workload on Indian pitches. The left-arm spinner has been in Australia in recent times, playing club cricket in Sydney.
In addition to that, Australia have also roped in former India batsman Sridharan Sriram, who has been appointed as the mentor to the Australian spinners. Unlike Panesar, however, Sriram will be a part of the support staff, which will travel with the team to Dubai first before coming to India for the four-match Test series.
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Panesar was one of the key members of the England side which won the Anthony D’Mello Trophy in India in 2012, forming a potent combination with Graeme Swann, to help their side win a series on Indian soil after 28 years.
Sriram, on the other hand, has been involved in the Australian cricket setup for sometime now, having travelled with them for the World T20 in India as well as to Sri Lanka last year.
The heart of the matter
Panesar is expected to travel to the Centre of Excellence in Brisbane later this week, where he is expected to work with Steve O’Keefe and opening batsman Matt Renshaw.
Revealing the reasoning behind the appointments, The High-Performance Manager of Cricket Australia Pat Howard said that the management wanted both the batsmen as well as the bowlers to engage with Panesar and understand what they could face up in India on spinning conditions.
"We want the batsmen to be thinking about what the bowlers will be trying to do to them over there and Monty can engage them that way as well as with the bowlers,” Howard said.
On the appointment of Sriram, Howard added that he had been working with the present group of players and knew them quite well.
“He knows our players very well and has a wealth of knowledge on the conditions that our players will face in India,” he added.
It will be interesting to see what kind of tips Panesar passes on to O’Keefe. One of the factors which made so successful on that trip to India in 2012 was the pace at which he bowled. The speeds more than the turn troubled the Indian batsmen then, who were caught between having to come front or go back and as a result, found themselves rooted to the crease, doing neither.
Sriram will then need to carry that forward with the side to Dubai and India and ensure that the spinners employed what Panesar taught them and put to use on the turning pitches.
While Panesar may not prove to be a bad appointment as a consultant, it begs the question as to why he was selected ahead of someone like a Shane Warne, who might have taken the same role for a week if not more and explained the nuances of spin bowling in Indian conditions.
As far as Sriram is concerned, maybe Australia could have roped him and utilised him to help the batsman out rather the bowlers.