Monty’s a jolly fellow!
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.
Philosophical: “I wish I never got Tendulkar as my first Test wicket,” says Monty Panesar.