It looks as if Monty Panesar will not play in the first test. Chris suggests this might be because his superior bowling skills will be wasted as Geraint Jones can't catch a spinning ball.
This raises an important economic problem - of indivisibilities in the production function. Imagine an extreme case in which spinners only take wickets through stumpings or caught behinds. If the wicket-keeper were useless, the spinner's skills, however great, would be wasted. In this case, the production of Australian wickets is indivisible; it requires two inputs (a keeper and spinner) each of whom is little use without the other.
Such indivisibilities have important implications:
1. They can cause increasing returns to scale. If Monty did play, the marginal product of a an extra, good, keeper would be very high. Of course, England can't field more than 11 players. But ordinary companies, faced with similar indivisibilities, can. If one worker becomes very productive only if he works with an expensive machine, the firm should buy the machine.
This, of course, means that larger firms can be much more efficient than smaller ones, who can't overcome such indivisibilites. And this, in turn, means that competition between firms might not exist. As Herbert Scarf showed here (pdf):
In the presence of increasing returns to scale in production the competitive equilibrium will typically fail to exist.
2. They help explain the existence of firms. If two assets only work well together, each has an incentive to threaten to pull out in order to bargain for a bigger share of the output. This is the hold-up problem. One natural solution to this is for the assets to be owned and managed together. If the threat of workers walking out is greater than that of capital moving, this implies that the assets should be owned by workers. This is why there's a case for worker ownership of public transport.
3. Indivisibilities can reduce incentives to acquire skills. There's little point spending years training to be an engineer, if there'll be no manufacturing industry when you qualify. This can lead economies into a "low skill equilibrium." People don't learn skills because they fear firms won't have the technology that requires skilled workers, and firms don't invest in technology, because they fear there'll not be the skilled workers to use it.
4. There's an ethical issue. Where there are indivisibilities, a worker's marginal product depends upon more than his own skills; when England have a useless wicket-keeper, Monty's marginal product is low. But if they had a good one, it would be high.
This in turn suggests that it's too simple to say that it's "fair" to pay someone their marginal product. Is it really fair that a man's pay can vary widely through factors beyond his control?
Monty's likely exclusion from the England team isn't just bad news for all good Englishmen, then. It's also troubling for the more simple-minded free-marketeers.