Monty’s a jolly fel­low!

Sportstar - - ENGLAND TOUR DIARY - SHREEDUTTA CHIDANANDA

Di­ary spots a fa­mil­iar face in the Chair­man’s Lounge at Edg­bas­ton. It’s dear old Monty Pane­sar, once the finest of spin­ners in Eng­land. Th­ese days, Monty is play­ing club cricket and look­ing for a county to take him on. He has been through a rough time per­son­ally, strug­gling with men­tal health is­sues and los­ing his way. He’s now happy again, he says, do­ing yoga and liv­ing healthy. Monty is a jolly fel­low, break­ing into a wide grin when re­minded of his first Test wicket. “I wish I never got Ten­dulkar as my first Test wicket,” he says. “Be­cause ev­ery time I go to the In­dian em­bassy, they don’t give me a visa! 1.2 bil­lion peo­ple don’t like me be­cause I got Ten­dulkar as my first wicket.” He loved tour­ing In­dia, he says, al­though In­dia’s bats­men didn’t seem to en­joy his visit as much in 2012. “I spoke Pun­jabi and Hindi with the In­dian play­ers. All of them were ab­so­lutely bril­liant. I started to fol­low Bol­ly­wood a bit more.” Monty last watched the film Sanju. “I loved it. I thought it was bril­liant. Maybe I can have a ca­reer in Bol­ly­wood next,” he laughs. A week later in Lon­don, Di­ary no­tices Monty chat­ting warmly with Har­ bha­jan Singh in Pun­jabi. Graeme Swann, his former spin­bowl­ing part­ner, merely nods and walks on. It strikes the Di­ary that Monty, for all his pop­u­lar­ity, was per­haps a mis­fit in the Eng­land team.

The ground is like an old friend to him

Mick Hunt, the ge­nial head grounds­man at Lord’s, is a re­lieved man. He has spent 49 years at the ground and the In­dia Test is his last. He has not been in the best of health re­cently, he tells Di­ary. He bat­tled can­cer many years ago and, when Di­ary meets him, Hunt says he has just re­turned from a kid­ney scan. “Hence the wa­ter,” he says, as he sips from a glass. Hunt talks about the ground like it’s an old friend. The heat­wave was so bad, he says, that he was at the ground at 5am to roll the pitch. “It was just me and the old fox and the pi­geons,” he laughs. Hunt is chat­ting with Di­ary when the skies open up. He sprints off mid­sen­tence, be­ly­ing his age of 66, to cover the square. On the first day of the Test, Hunt goes through four pairs of clothes, get­ting soaked in the rain as he tries to get rid of any wa­ter stand­ing on the cov­ers.

GETTY IM­AGES

Philo­soph­i­cal: “I wish I never got Ten­dulkar as my first Test wicket,” says Monty Pane­sar.

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