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Monty Panesar: Sikhs Are Warriors And I'm A Fighter, I’ll Never Give Up - Spinner Vows To Win Back E


Jun 1, 2004
The honeymoon is over for Monty Panesar as he begins a new season fighting to win back his England place. Two months after marrying his long-term girlfriend, Gursharan Rattan, and completing a move from Northamptonshire to Sussex, English cricket's cult hero is facing a career crisis.

In an Ashes year, the Sikh of Tweak is battling to recover his place in the England Test squad, trailing in the wake of first-choice spinners Graeme Swann and James Tredwell as well as England Lions spin graduates Adil Rashid and David Wainwright.

Panesar's last appearance for England was in the memorable Ashes Test in Cardiff when he and tail-ender James Anderson batted out time to snatch a remarkable draw for a result that influenced ultimately the return of the famous urn.

Nine months on, Panesar, 28 in two weeks time, has re-emerged with his bride by his side, a new home not far from the Brighton seafront where he played beach cricket as a boy, a new county club, and renewed hopes of reconnecting with the England dressing room.

Despite his heroics with the bat at Sophia Gardens, Panesar, whose bowling had started to disappoint, was not picked by England for the rest of the Ashes summer.

He managed a meagre haul of 18 Championship wickets at 59 for Northants and left for South Africa in search of inspiration and a period of self-reflection while playing as an overseas recruit for the Johannesburg Lions.

Panesar did little better there, averaging just over two wickets a match, but something happened in those few months of exposure to the rarefied, high veldt atmosphere to give him renewed purpose and the courage to believe he can revive his Test career.

'Sikhs are warriors and I am a fighter. I never give up,' said Panesar last week. 'That is why I went to South Africa and came to Sussex. I wanted to make things happen.'

He credits his marriage in February to Sharan, a leading young pharmacist, for giving him renewed purpose.

'Sharan has given me greater stability,' said Panesar, who yesterday marked his debut for Sussex by taking 3 for 20 against Glamorgan.'Newly wed, new Sussex, new Monty.'

His young wife, a graduate in pharmaceutical science, gained her award as Graduate Pharmacist of the Year while working at the clinic inside Leyton Orient's Matchroom Stadium. She now works as a locum, commuting to London from the couple's home in Hove.

If marriage has helped to refocus his efforts as a cricketer, it can only be to Panesar and England's advantage, although chairman of selectors Geoff Miller suggests the spinner must add variety to his bowling to regain his place.

Miller said: 'We are monitoring his progress in his new Sussex environment. 'Monty had a cracking first year, bowling with increasing confidence after claiming Sachin Tendulkar as his first Test wicket. But batsmen began to work him out. They could see what he could and, more importantly, couldn't do and played him accordingly.'

Miller says Panesar impressed England coach Andy Flower when he joined the team for net practice in South Africa last winter.

'He needed to go away and take his game to the next level,' said Miller. 'That's what we asked him to do. His future depends on results on the field and how people play against him in the middle.

'The word that was bandied about with regard to his bowling was "variation", or the lack of it. He needs to work hard, work with people he respects and come back a better bowler.

'We shall see if his confidence returns and whether he can put batsmen under pressure. That's what we're looking for from him again. If he's bowling well, he will be back in contention for an England place.'

Panesar claims that his mind had become clouded and his performances blunted by the welter of well-meaning advice he had received.

'I was listening to too many people,' he said. 'I had played a lot of international cricket. I had a lot of experience under my belt, but I wasn't backing my own judgment and was listening too much to others.

'Then, on the fourth day at Cardiff, Geoffrey Boycott told me to ignore the advice I was receiving. He told me not to listen to anyone. "Trust yourself. People who do that survive", he said. From that moment, I started to change.

'Last year was disappointing. I wanted to put the setbacks behind me. I took myself to South Africa where I enjoyed the responsibility of being an overseas player and regained my love of bowling.'

Panesar admits that he has missed the Barmy Army's adulation and the buzz he felt when claiming Tendulkar's scalp as the first of his 126 Test wickets at Nagpur four years ago.

'I enjoyed being a cult hero,' he said. 'I didn't expect it, but the warmth and love the fans gave me, even in the bad times last summer, was wonderful. They never turned against me. Between overs, on the boundary edge, they'd say, "Chin up, son. Next over, you'll get him". The Barmy Army love me.'

Surprisingly, Panesar claims 'no interest' in the technical aspects of bowling. 'I get spin on the ball from the positive energy I generate,' he said.

He is also positive that he can regain his place in the England Test side as Swann's spin partner. 'Swann and me are a good attack. We bowled a lot together at Northants and second time round, I can do it with him again for England,' said Panesar.

'It's only a matter of time before I get my next chance for England. I've not set targets but I want to play this summer and win an Ashes place. I've played 39 Tests and I'd like to make it 100. In this second phase to my career, I want to be my own man. It's a fresh start, a new Monty.'


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