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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 January 2006, 10:52 GMT
England's spin dilemma
By Oliver Brett

The fitness concerns surrounding Ashley Giles mean there is currently only one specialist spinner definitely on the tour for India - Hampshire's Shaun Udal.

If Giles is fit enough to tour, one of a trio comprising Monty Panesar, Ian Blackwell and Alex Loudon, will also be added to make up the 16-man squad.

But if Giles fails to recover from hip surgery, two men from that supplementary list will be packing their bags.

BBC Sport considers the merits of the hopeful trio.

MONTY PANESAR (Left-arm orthodox, Northamptonshire)

Panesar only played eight matches in the County Championship in 2005, but excelled to take 46 wickets at 21.54 apiece, with four five-wicket hauls.

Monty Panesar
Panesar would represent the biggest gamble

His selection would represent the biggest gamble by the England management since he did not even feature in the original winter Academy intake.

There were concerns he was not committed enough to improve his shaky fielding and batting abilities.

He is, however, acknowledged to be one of the most talented slow bowlers on the county circuit and, at just 23, he has plenty of time to improve.

Extra facts: Monty is a nickname. His real name is Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, and he would be the first Sikh to play for England.

Raw bowling skills: Best of the three candidates.

Batting capabilities: Worst of the three candidates.

Is the coach a fan? Duncan Fletcher likes everyone to contribute with the bat, even if they are number 11, so Panesar has some work to do.

IAN BLACKWELL (Left-arm orthodox, Somerset)

A fringe player for some time in England's one-day set-up, the bulky slow left-armer has always had more success as a containing bowler.

Ian Blackwell
Blackwell could best fill the Giles role

But he can also bat explosively. He hit more than 1,000 first-class runs for Somerset last season, for instance, at an average of 46.30.

The main factor mitigating against him is his low strike-rate with the ball. And if Division Two batsmen find him easy to play, then the Indians will really tuck in.

But he can at least bowl with consistent accuracy, an important factor if Giles is not fit and England need someone to tie down one end with the seamers operating at the other.

Extra facts: His first victim in first-class cricket was Steve Waugh. Enjoys listening to Eminem before whacking sixes around his home ground Taunton.

Raw bowling skills: Tidy, but lacks variation - no mystery ball.

Batting capabilities: In theory, a genuine all-rounder - but averages just 15.62 in one-day internationals.

Is the coach a fan? Fletcher watched him score runs in 2002 and picked him, but Blackwell was reluctant to work hard on his fitness.

ALEX LOUDON (Off-break, Warwickshire)

Loudon's move from Kent after the 2004 season paid off dramatically as he became the main spinner at Edgbaston with Ashley Giles on international duty.

Alex Loudon
Loudon is a top prospect for the future

He was essentially employed as a middle-order batsman, but found himself contributing much more with the ball and even has an embryonic "doosra" up his sleeve.

There are whispers, though, that he would attract the attentions of a match referee if he used the doosra in an international.

It was a massive surprise when he was called up for England's tour of Pakistan - though he only played in one warm-up match.

Extra facts: Learned the doosra from an Indian exchange student during long summer evenings at his school, Eton. As a younger brother, he picked up the nickname Minotaur, by obscure public school tradition.

Raw bowling skills: Improving. Imagine him dismissing Tendulkar with his doosra.

Batting capabilities: High, but rarely makes big scores at county level.

Is the coach a fan? You bet. Fletcher has a track record in unearthing players who do not quite excel at county level but go on to succeed in Tests. Loudon could be the next.


SEE ALSO
England profiles: Ian Blackwell
29 Nov 05 |  England


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