Monty on right wave­length for a big come­back

The Cricket Paper - - NEWS & FEATURE - By Richard Ed­wards

MONTY Pane­sar is eye­ing an Eng­land re­call – de­spite cur­rently be­ing with­out a county for next sea­son.

The 34-year-old has spent this win­ter play­ing grade cricket in Syd­ney with the Cam­bell­town Cam­den Ghosts, while also train­ing with Big Bash side, Syd­ney Thun­der.

He has also now been drafted in by Aus­tralia to help with their prepa­ra­tions for their tour of In­dia next month.

It’s a while since Pane­sar re­ceived a sim­i­lar call-up by his home coun­try, with his most re­cent Test ap­pear­ance com­ing as far back as De­cem­ber 2013 when Aus­tralia trounced Eng­land in Mel­bourne.

But after a string of con­tro­ver­sies and a dis­ap­point­ing re­turn to the county game with Northants in 2016, the left-armer is hop­ing the new year has brought with it a change of for­tune – and he’s even been hit­ting the air­waves.

“I’m try­ing to get my­self fit again and try­ing to make sure that my body can sus­tain 90 overs a day,” he told The Cricket Pa­per. “I’ve been bowl­ing some good spells but first and fore­most I need to be in the right shape to get my­self a county.

“I’ve been speak­ing to Northants and my agent has sent out a few let­ters – we’ll wait and see what re­sponse we got.

“I prob­a­bly came back a lit­tle bit too early last sea­son. I’ve had bad luck with my re­hab on my shoul­der. A shoul­der in­jury is al­ways a dif­fi­cult one but it has been good here – I’ve been work­ing with Er­rol Al­cott, who was Steve Waugh’s physio and the Aus­tralian team’s physio.

“The club have pro­vided a physio, too, so ev­ery­thing is go­ing in the right di­rec­tion.”

Only wick­ets, of course, will earn Pane­sar a fresh county con­tract and po­ten­tial hand him the un­likely but not im­pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity to don the Three Li­ons again.

Pane­sar took 5-85 in three Cham­pi­onship out­ings for Northants last sea­son. It was hardly the re­turn he was look­ing for after re-join­ing the county at the start of the sum­mer. In an in­ter­view with the BBC shortly after his come­back, Pane­sar re­vealed his strug­gles with anx­i­ety and para­noia which have blighted his ca­reer re­cently.

His time Down Un­der, how­ever, ap­pears to have reignited Pane­sar’s pas­sion for the sport and in­stead of dwelling on the past, he’s now in­tent on look­ing to the fu­ture.

“I just wanted to do as much as I could out here,” he said. “I’m coach­ing the Camp­bell­town U16 and U21 sides but I’m also run­ning the prac­tice ses­sions for the first team in the mid­dle as well. I’ve also got my own morn­ing ra­dio show and am do­ing some after-dinner speak­ing, too, so I’m re­ally broad­en­ing my ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s all go­ing well.”

It was hard for English cricket fol­low­ers to not won­der what might have been when Eng­land’s bowl­ing at­tack was be­ing torn to shreds by In­dia’s bat­ting ear­lier this win­ter. Not too long ago, Pane­sar and Graeme Swann were spin­ning Eng­land to their first vic­tory on In­dian soil in 27 years.

That, though, is a dis­tant memory for a spinner who hasn’t played a Test for his coun­try since the Box­ing Day clash against Aus­tralia at the MCG in 2013. Still with­out a county con­tract for the forth­com­ing sea­son, an Eng­land re­call still looks some way off.

“If you’ve got that pas­sion to play then you keep go­ing – and that’s what I’m do­ing,” he said. “You just have to keep plug­ging away. I’m still only 34 and I have to keep the faith.

“I have to keep the train­ing go­ing and stay mo­ti­vated. Once you stop do­ing your cricket skills and your train­ing drills be­cause you lack mo­ti­va­tion then that’s when you know enough is enough.

“I’ve still got that pas­sion and work­ing with Syd­ney Thun­der has given me a great feel­ing again. I still back my­self and I’d love to play for Eng­land again be­cause I miss play­ing Tests.”

At the mo­ment, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali are the men in pos­ses­sion and are likely to re­main so go­ing into the Test match sum­mer.

And de­spite their 4-0 drub­bing at In­dian hands in the Test se­ries, Pane­sar be­lieves the ex­pe­ri­ence gained by the pair will have been in­valu­able.

“Bowl­ing in In­dia is as tough as it gets,” he said. “We got ev­ery­thing right back in 2012 but it’s all about hav­ing the right com­bi­na­tions. I thought they both bowled re­ally well and they’ll be bet­ter bowlers for what hap­pened. They’re rel­a­tively young and learn­ing all the time.”

Pane­sar him­self has been handed some harsh lessons in re­cent years but after a win­ter Down Un­der his star might be about to rise again.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Still hop­ing to turn it round: Monty Pane­sar has been broad­en­ing his hori­zons on many lev­els Down Un­der

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