Ashwin Sets Batsmen Up Beautifully, Has Been a Revelation: Panesar

Panesar said he’s been impressed by how Leach has grown over the course of England’s tours of Sri Lanka and India.

5 min read

England’s performances against spin in the last two Tests against India has not been anything to write home about and it has hurt them quite a fair bit. And while England struggled, Rohit Sharma went on his merry way outscoring others handsomely in both the Test matches India won.

Former England spinner Monty Panesar acknowledged the flaws of the visitors and said he believed the key to dislodging Rohit lies in disturbing his impeccable balance.

Panesar, who is in India with the England Legends team for the Road Safety World Series scheduled to start at the Shaheed Veer Narayan Singh International Cricket Stadium in Raipur from 5 March, hopes the visiting bowling unit can bring Rohit out of his comfort zone.

“Rohit likes the ball in his corridor that is the off-stump and middle stump line and then plays the shots with great elegance. And England need to get it away from there. I don’t think Jack Leach is doing that – start off from outside off stump and get him to play his shots from outside and give a few boundaries if you need to and let him search. The bowling unit needs to start getting him to tip over which is not happening because he has such good balance. You need to get him off balance,” Panesar told The Quint in a virtual interaction from Raipur.

While Rohit has done his share of damage with the bat, England have also not had much in response to R Ashwin. The all-rounder achieved the 400-wicket milestone in the third Test and will no doubt look to add a few more to the tally in the next.

Rishabh Pant, R Ashwin, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara and Mayank Agarwal in SCG dressing room. 
Rishabh Pant, R Ashwin, Hanuma Vihari, Cheteshwar Pujara and Mayank Agarwal in SCG dressing room. 
Image: Cheteshwar Pujara/Twitter

“I think SCG was the turnaround moment for Ashwin when he saved the Test. When he bats well his bowling is better. He thinks like a batsman and he is a thinking cricketer and tries to understand the science of spin bowling more than other spinners. Ashwin has been a revelation for India,” Panesar, who further added that he was impressed by how Ashwin sets batsmen up, said.

“He wants the batsmen to play from the crease and he sets them up nicely. Once he’s got them in the crease, he does not want them to come out and it’s beautiful to watch.”

Ashwin and the Indian spinners have been a menace to the visiting batsmen and Panesar believes the fourth Test is a chance for the youngsters to show their mettle.

“Realistically does this team have the skills against spin like that of 2012. If you look at it, Sir Alastair Cook and Kevin Pietersen are among the top 5 batsmen England ever produced but here Joe Root’s a lone soldier and he needs a couple of batters around him to help. England have done well with Root, if he scores big, they have a chance to go on and win the Test, but if he does not then the likes of Ollie Pope, Dan Lawrence, Dom Sibley should not worry about the result and try and learn from this tour,” Panesar explained.

“After this they’ve got Tests against South Africa, New Zealand and then India coming to England, and there’s not going to be much spinning tracks.. So, in this Test, learn what you can and try and find a method and if you’re a young cricketer and you do well for England, the selectors will think that you have character. This is a test of character, mental strength, technique and fitness and more to do with their attitude, mindset.”

The former spinner also believes that the introduction of crowds coupled with the domination of the opposition played their part in making life difficult for the visitors. Crowds returned to stadiums in India with the second Test in Chennai and then in Ahmedabad as well, both contests seeing England get outplayed comprehensively after they had registered a resounding win in the series opener.

“Conditions were similar in Galle and the guys should togetherness and there’s a level of calmness. The batters just got flustered with the crowds and the noise around them, but it is what Tests are about in India. It’s a different type of pressure and they players got intimidated and crumbled under the pressure.”

Fans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad during the third Test between England and India. 
Fans at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad during the third Test between England and India. 
Image: BCCI

Panesar, who has played eight Tests in India and picked a total of 28 wickets with a best of a match haul of 11 scalps in Mumbai in 2012, said he had been impressed by how Jack Leach had grown over the course of England’s tours in Sri Lanka and India.

Leach, who came into the India series on the back of picking 10 wickets in two Tests in Sri Lanka, was taken to the cleaners on his first outing in Chennai by Rishabh Pant, after which he bounced back in impressive fashion.

“Leach has improved and bowled well. His consistency is getting better. I think the Indian team knows that he bowls well in passages and is unable to sustain the pressure. He will give one bad ball and I think he does not put England in winning positions and that’s the next stage.”

“If he wants to become like a first-choice spinner, if he can find a bit of the consistency it will make him into a better spinner… His battle with Rishabh Pant and the way he’s turned it around, you can see Leach is grown on this trip,” the former England spinner said.

While Panesar will be with the England Legends team in Raipur, the Joe Root-led side will look to finish off the Test series on a high and also hope to stop India from qualifying for the World Test Championship Final at Lord’s. The four-match Test series stands locked at 2-1.

England Legends Squad for RSWS: Kevin Pietersen, Owais Shah, Philip Mustard, Monty Panesar, Nick Crompton, Kabir Al,; Sajid Mahmood, JamesTredwell, Chris Schofield, Jonathan Trott, Ryan Sidebottom, Usman Afzaal, Matthew Hoggard, James Tindall.

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