Monty Panesar's career has been haunted by Shane Warne's one-liner: 'He's not played 30 Tests, he's played the same Test 30 times'. It was a piece of dressing room wisdom that capped Monty's destructive reputation for guilelessness, the Frank Spencer of left-arm spin.
It somehow seems more than five years ago that Panesar took the first of his 126 Test wickets - Sachin Tendulkar was his duck-breaker, Rahul Dravid his third. Inzamam ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan followed the next summer. Monty was good enough for the best.
Since his move to Sussex, he's been doing pretty much everything right, trying to reconcile the need to grow his game while remaining in touch with the innate skill he produced so naturally at first.
When he had the chance to go and bowl at the world's premier batsman in the nets a few weeks ago, he took the initiative, just as everyone kept telling him he needed to do. He jumped in his car, got himself down to Lord's and turned his arm over for Sachin Tendulkar.
'I thought it would be a chance to get some tips for my bowling,' he said. 'These things are great opportunities and it gave me the chance to add further development to my game'.
Andy Flower took a different view. Flower called Monty 'naive'. Monty, being Monty, will probably roll over and agree. He shouldn't. He is not contracted to England, just to Sussex. He's 29 years old and has responsibility for his own career. If he thinks that bowling at Tendulkar will help him, he has every right to do so.
Flower has been revelatory in his time with England. He is a hugely impressive man, deserving of respect. He is wrong in this instance, though. His concern should not be Sachin Tendulkar, who, let's face it, after 14,000 runs is probably going to get a few more at some point regardless of who bowls at him in the nets or in the Test matches. His concern should be for Monty, who is the sort of man who will take being called 'naive' by the England Team Director to heart.
Even if Flower was able to make his case for Panesar bowling to Tendulkar as being detrimental to England, this was an issue best handled with a quiet word in private. Monty deserved better than a public slapping down in a way that reinforces a perceived weakness in his make-up.
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