Keep faith in Panesar

Monty Panesar scores a few runs despite his label as the worst No. 11 ever to pick up a bat, writes TED CORBETT.

September 4 — So a photographer takes a few pictures of Shahid Nazir prizing dirt from a ball, or picking the seam, or simply passing a few idle moments. The three pictures, much in demand by ICC it appears, are snapped at some point in the Oval Test but they seem to prove nothing; a blurry image in which all the drama is contained in the caption. Will ICC, who assiduously gather such images since the Oval incident — now known in tabloid history as Tampergate — see them as evidence? They mean very little on their own.

September 5 — The Professional Cricketers Association send out invitations to join their annual dinner — no thanks, it's time to take a break and besides it is also �100 a plate — when their awards for the last year will come out. You know, most promising young player Stuart Broad, Most Valuable Player, etc, etc. I think I ought to announce mine too. (Must be careful though, especially as I give a famous former cricketer turned writer a lecture on the laws of libel this week.) Batsman of the year: Monty Panesar who scores a few runs despite his label as the worst No. 11 ever to pick up a bat. Bowler of the year: Monty Panesar whose rippling delivery produces turn that even the middle three of the Pakistan line-up cannot handle. All he needs is faith — from the England selectors, Duncan Fletcher, the coach, and whoever is captain. Fielder of the year: Monty. ...no, this cannot go on for all he is the most improved. Give it to Paul Collingwood instead; he takes catches that turn matches. Now, lets have the luckiest player: who else but Michael Vaughan whose injury keeps him clear of the fall-out from one or two defeats and whose captaincy achieves almost legendary status because Andrew Flintoff and Andrew Strauss don't quite live up to his standard. Napoleon says he wants a lucky general and I reckon Vaughan fits that description both when he is in charge — remember that the final dismissal at Edgbaston was simply a bad umpiring decision — and since he is hurt. He — and England — need one final piece of luck. A swift recovery. Or maybe he can be recruited as a non-playing consultant. Why not?

September 6 — Let us take a peek at the moral maze that surrounds Marcus Trescothick. On one side he is ill, needs rest and a spot of tender loving care which he can obtain if he drops out of the team for the ICC Trophy. So what's the problem? It is the other 10 players. They will all love to drop out of one trip or another this winter and spend the time with their families. So how does David Graveney, chairman of the selectors, explain to them that Trescothick is a special case? With difficulty, I guess. So, do the selectors say to him — Look, it's all or nothing as they do when Alec Stewart and Darren Gough ask to miss one tour and play in another a few years ago. So he can go, not play very well and get dropped or miss the whole winter which leaves England short of their top gun. If you take the Duncan Fletcher point — that he wants all his players available for every tour — you put cricket back 20 years to the time when they are "the servants of the club", are paid poorly and retire early. The world changes and in modern times you ought not to treat players as if they are automatons. Take Alec Stewart; the good soldier, shoulders back, smartly dressed at all times, willing to play anywhere, keep wicket, captain the side, open the batting, all at the same time. Yet when he drops out he gets frightful abuse as if he was some sort of rebel or, after 10 years of dedicated service, he suddenly turns shirker. Or take another point of view. Down all the years cricketers are portrayed as fine examples of what men must be: noble souls without a selfish thought in their heads. It's not true and if some of them don't always behave according to the rules as laid down for public school boys in the year 1800 we are the ones who have to realise that just because a man can play an off drive or bowl at 90 miles an hour we cannot expect him to live in a vacuum, to ignore his loved ones, or to think cricket, the team and his place in sporting history every minute of every day.

September 7 — More indistinct pictures held up as ball-tampering by sensation seeking TV commentators. Mike Procter, match referee at the Rose Bowl, lays no charge. It must be a sign of things to come. I certainly hope so.

September 8 — The papers this week are full of stories about Marcus Trescothick dropping out of the trip to India but there is a cricket correspondent who must be sympathetic. He is one Mike Walters of the Daily Mirror who gives up the wandering life — I sometimes think of myself as a cricketing Flying Dutchman damned to sail round the world forever — to return to football reporting. He thinks it is not fair to his family to carry on touring after having the job full time for the last seven years. I applaud his decision. Mike loves a good pun to start off his stories and he loves to talk, usually about as fast as Shoaib Akhtar bowls. That gives him the nickname of Machine Gun Mike or MGM.

September 9 — As we arrive at Birmingham for the final match of the international summer I run into David Graveney. He looks worried. "It is the captaincy," he admits. "Difficult. It is doing my head in." I tell him there is only one answer. He must choose Andrew Flintoff because he is an inspiration in the manner of Richard the Lionheart or Winston Churchill. He leaves, promising to sit down and think of nothing else for 20 minutes by which time, I assure him, he will know the answer. By the time you read this piece we will all know what he decides. It is the most important decision of his long reign.

September 10 — Time to put the old diary back on the shelf for at least a couple of months; stop the burn-out, recharge the batteries, you know the sort of thing. But just in case you want to remain cheerful while I go in search of the perfect holiday here's a thought. Your life will be lightened in the near future if one Graham Onions plays for England. He is a sub editor's dream. Imagine the occasion when he is man of the match and watch out for headlines like "This boy knows his Onions." Or a miserable performance and "Don't weep for Onions." And finally, a story that he is about to retire — "That's shallot, Onions." MGM must be regretting his decision to retire already.