Hayter: Can Monty fea­ture Down Under?

The Cricket Paper - - FRONT PAGE - PETER HAYTER

I’m not a great fan of smooth­ies, but the con­coc­tion Monty Pane­sar re­cently served up to his 148,000 Twitter fol­low­ers seemed even less of a treat for the taste buds than your usual fruit juice in dis­guise. “Hi guys,” the for­mer Eng­land lef­t­arm spin­ner told us via video-selfie from his kitchen, sport­ing a skin tight train­ing top and ques­tion­able shorts: “To­day we’re go­ing to talk about my break­fast and I’ve got a re­ally good recipe.

“You get a cup full of kale, some chopped-up cel­ery, and a hand­ful of spinach.You can use pears or ba­nanas. To­day we are us­ing ap­ples. Then you’ve got the op­tion of us­ing some co­conut wa­ter or just nor­mal wa­ter. Then you squeeze half a fresh lemon. Tighten the lid, give it a good mix and away you go.”

Wisely, per­haps, he left that part to the imag­i­na­tion, though that ap­plies to very lit­tle else he has filmed and broad­cast him­self do­ing in the past cou­ple of weeks.

There is the oblig­a­tory “What’s in my cricket bag” fea­ture. Not much, ac­tu­ally, ex­cept three pads (even he asks, “why three?”) and a bun­dle of whites that need to get to the wash­ing ma­chine right now.

He takes us to lunch in an Ital­ian restau­rant with his mum, “my fairy god­mother”.

Like all fairy god­moth­ers, she’s hav­ing pasta. He’s hav­ing goat’s cheese.

The first of a series of filmed work­outs re­veals him jog­ging be­tween cones, some­thing he sub­se­quently de­scribes as sprint train­ing but which, to the un­trained eye, ap­pears about as stren­u­ous as open­ing a packet of crisps. Then there is an up­hill run which must cover at least 30 yards.

Later ses­sions, su­per­vised by a per­sonal trainer and pro boxer named Manny, are more like it, as he is seen put­ting his back and re­cov­er­ing shoul­der into some se­ri­ous weights, and, just to make sure, though, he is also seen re­ceiv­ing physio on the same shoul­ders from two sep­a­rate ther­a­pists – “to re­tain elas­tic­ity”.

Mov­ingly, we’re with him on his birth­day as he takes us in­side his Sikh tem­ple in Lu­ton, an ex­pe­ri­ence that: “Gives me a chance to re­flect on the good and bad times of the year, but also to con­nect with God. It gives me a sense of peace and makes me feel hum­ble.”

We see him get­ting ready for in­ter­views on Sikh TV, wor­ry­ing about his shirt and his spec­ta­cles, hand­ing over a box of stuff to a lo­cal char­ity shop for un­der­priv­i­leged kids, cook­ing again, or rather chop­ping onions and put­ting them in a pan with spinach, wish­ing Sachin Ten­dulkar a happy birth­day and show­ing us a box of Easter eggs. Slur­rppp, slur­rppp, he tells us.

And there is cricket; in­tro­duc­ing Mid­dle­sex 2nd XI coach Dave Houghton as he pre­pares to prac­tise with them, shar­ing the screen with Nick Comp­ton, who tells us how he has taught Monty a bet­ter class of “ban­ter”.You may wish to draw your own conclusions.

Here he is tak­ing part in a char­ity net

Is it too fan­ci­ful to hope there re­mains a flicker of a chance that he could re­alise his dream of play­ing cricket for Eng­land again one day?

at Lord’s with Alas­tair Cook, along­side whom he made his Test de­but in 2006, vis­it­ing the Northamp­ton­shire Steel­backs as they warm up for the start of the white-ball sea­son and in full club gear in the dress­ing room at Lu­ton CC, the place where it all started for him and, should his pleas for a county club to give him a gig con­tinue to fall on deaf ears, where it may well fin­ish for him.

In all hon­esty, it is hard to know what to make of all this.

True, to­wards the end of last year Monty was be­ing touted as a pos­si­ble con­tender for the next I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, so, if noth­ing else, these snip­pets may come in handy as they amount to au­di­tion pieces.

Some will dis­miss them as fur­ther ev­i­dence of the ec­cen­tric­ity for which he has al­ways been known and of­ten loved, but which, as the de­mons de­scended turned into some­thing else.

At the very least, it is heart­en­ing to see some­one who, by his own ad­mis­sion has been through ag­o­nis­ing men­tal health prob­lems, in­clud­ing acute para­noia and de­pres­sion that re­quired sig­nif­i­cant lev­els of med­i­ca­tion, sim­ply to be en­joy­ing life again.

But while that alone would rep­re­sent a ma­jor vic­tory, is it too fan­ci­ful to hope there re­mains a flicker of a chance that he could re­alise his dream of play­ing cricket for Eng­land again one day?

Down Under last win­ter, Aus­tralian cricket found a place for him, not only invit­ing him to play grade cricket for Cam­bell­town in Sydney, but also in re­cruit­ing him to help their spin­ners pre­pare for their Test tour to In­dia, a move from which, after they had won the first Test in Pune, it was claimed match­win­ning left-armer Steve O’Keefe ben­e­fited hugely.

Are Eng­land so well off in the spin depart­ment that they can af­ford to close the book on a bowler who amassed 167 wick­ets in 50 Tests, took six wick­ets in an in­nings six times and six fur­ther five-fors?

With all due re­spect, is the best they can come up with this sum­mer and on spin-un­friendly pitches in Aus­tralia this win­ter a com­bi­na­tion of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid, the un­capped Jack Leach and the cur­rently un­picked (by Hamp­shire) Ma­son Crane?

Is it re­ally be­yond the wit of Eng­land cricket, and of An­drew Strauss, in his role as di­rec­tor of Eng­land cricket, to har­ness what Pane­sar still may have to of­fer? Or at least to try to? For, no mat­ter how much fun Monty is hav­ing in his own re­al­ity TV show right now, as things stand we are more likely to be watch­ing him eat­ing Witch­etty grubs in the Aussie jun­gle next win­ter than prob­ing a tight off-stump line against Steve Smith, and, all things con­sid­ered, that just doesn’t seem okay.

PIC­TURE: Getty Im­ages

Sikh of tweak: Monty Pane­sar in ac­tion for Eng­land

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