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Panesar: Misunderstood Botham is a scapegoat, but risks making cricket more elitist


Former England international Monty Panesar has leaped to the defence of Lord Ian Botham as the culture wars in English Cricket continues. This comes after the England and Wales Cricket Board were criticised for failing to make an example of the 68-year-old’s views regarding the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket report on racism.

Botham, who represented his country 102 times in test match cricket, labelled the findings as ‘nonsense’ when speaking to Simon Jordan on the William Hill Upfront podcast. The all-rounder stated that “I read bits of the report and to be honest I just threw it down on the floor in the end because in my eyes, it’s a nonsense. It was a complete and utter waste of money that could have been well spent on other things within the game.”

Now, speaking exclusively to the Sports Gazette, Panesar has claimed that the former England skipper has been made a scapegoat, despite the fact the 41-year-old believes that the comments that were made are detrimental to the development of future generations of cricketers.

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“I don’t think everyone’s world is like Ian Botham’s,” Panesar revealed when asked about Botham’s comments. “He’s got diverse friends all over the world, but he’s in that elite bracket.

“That’s where I think there is a misunderstanding. He also represents cricketers who are at grassroots level, boys and girls. If he’s going to dismiss that report, then he is re-emphasisng the narrative that cricket is for the elitist. It adds a bit of weight to the report.”

In the report titled ‘Holding Up A Mirror To Cricket’ it was shown that if you attend a state school, you’re less likely to have access to cricket and have the same opportunity to progress in the game as you would do if you received private education. This notion is sadly, not unheard of. As of 2019, 45% of male county cricketers who went to school in the United Kingdom paid for their education. This statistic is all the more damning when considering that only 7% of the country’s population attend privately funded schools.

The report, released in June 2023, seeks to address the class issue that was prominent in the sport at all levels, along with the ‘widespread racism’ and the marginalisation of women’s cricket.

Not only were Botham’s comments arguably harmful for helping cricket develop into a more inclusive sport, but they also were also filled ‘with untruths’ according to the chair of the ICEC, Cindy Butts.

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During his discussion with Simon Jordan, Botham claimed that he wasn’t approached for the report, and was unaware of who has been interviewed for it. This was rebuffed by Butts, who told Members of Parliament on Tuesday that not only was the Durham chairman asked to take part and failed to respond, but that his county did provide written evidence which was later used in the findings.

Butts, who authored the report, laid blame on the ECB for not showing a ‘moral backbone’ in dealing with the comments, a sentiment that Panesar shared.

“I believe that the story shouldn’t be based on Lord Botham. The finger should be pointed towards the ECB,” suggested the spinner.

“People are trying to make Lord Botham the scapegoat. I can understand why he doesn’t support it because his world is different. He doesn’t realise the impact his actions have to the less fortunate people in cricket.

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“The ECB have been slow to respond to this. According to the report, it was 19 years ago when they had a report come out on racism and they only responded to it in 2018. So, it doesn’t surprise me that they were slow to respond on this issue.”

The question becomes, is there a way that Botham and the ECB can repair their reputation in order to make the sport more inclusive? Panesar believes he has the answer.

“Over the next two or three years, to completely reform the system will require a lot of funding. One way of doing it is create a program for state school cricketers and have a pathway into the professional game. Perhaps this is something that Lord Botham could align himself to.”



  • Callum Bishop

    Callum is a sports journalist who boasts a variety of experience in producing written and video content. If it involves kicking, throwing or hitting a ball, best believe that Callum is watching and covering it. Despite popular belief, he would never have made it pro regardless of any knee injuries. However, he absolutely lives off the time he nutmegged a Premier League player during five aside.

  • Toby Reynolds

    Toby is the cricket editor at the Sports Gazette. For the last three years, he has been a radio host and podcaster at URN. He also enjoys F1, rugby and football. Having written his dissertation on rugby union salary caps, Toby loves to explore tactical trends and use statistics to back up his arguments, as well as trying to disprove the saying that “stats are for prats”.