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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 10:46 GMT
Panesar's passion

By Oliver Brett

Monty Panesar's limitless enthusiasm for international cricket is truly remarkable.

Most England players would love to have had a bit more rest and relaxation with their loved ones ahead of the World Cup.

Monty Panesar
Panesar's celebration routine is one of the great sights in cricket

The Australia tour lasted well over three months and there has only been a two-week break before they fly out to the Caribbean on Friday.

It is natural, therefore, to ask Panesar if he feels this is enough time.

"For me it's been great to catch up with family and friends but I'm raring to go again, now," he tells BBC Sport.

But is two weeks really long enough?

"Yeah, for me I need a couple of days for break and I'm happy," he deadpans. A couple of days? Now, there's dedication.

Panesar has come a long way in the year since 1 March 2006, when he became the first Sikh to play for England, making his debut against India in Nagpur.

He claimed the famous scalp of Sachin Tendulkar on his debut, and has since become a cult figure with fans and a rare beacon for hope during the Ashes humiliation down under.

His eagerness to be involved at every opportunity - he uses words like "opportunity" and "exciting" a lot - makes it seem particularly perverse that he had to sit out the first two Ashes Tests.

Panesar's tour finally began in Perth, where he took 5-92, and he then chipped away as best he could in Melbourne and Sydney.

England eventually slid to a 5-0 Ashes whitewash, but Panesar's broad shoulders never drooped.

He promptly made his one-day international debut and was generally treated with respect by Australia and New Zealand's batsmen, taking on average a wicket per match and ending with a decent economy rate of 4.60.

It was quite amusing when people downloaded those masks when I was playing Test cricket in England last year

Monty Panesar

He did nothing spectacular, but to hold his own having barely played one-day cricket for Northants, was a fine achievement.

What was that like for him, to make an ODI debut for England against Australia in Australia, with all the pressure that entails?

Panesar considers the question briefly and then replies: "I guess it was a good opportunity for me.

"Your other disciplines in the game do get exposed. I really wanted to work on them and get them improved, so it was a really good opportunity to improve my game by playing an intense version of the game.

"In a powerplay or in the last 10 overs you know you have to bowl slightly differently.

"Different situations kind of dictate the way you bowl. You try to adapt. I'm still learning about all that kind of stuff but I've got to try the best way I can.

"At times you obviously know they are looking to hit you so you're just trying to communicate with the senior players and the keeper and see what the best option is."

It goes without saying that Panesar is "really excited" about the World Cup and "definitely looking forward" to the experience.

Even in Australia, fans flock to support the popular Panesar
Even in Australia, fans flock to support the popular Panesar

But will that sense of anticipation dwindle if captain Michael Vaughan cannot shake off his hamstring injury?

"He's a great leader but we've got other leaders in the team as well so it will be a great bonus if he can play and I'm sure he will," is the slightly convoluted reply.

Panesar's services have been made available on a bleak, wind-swept day at The Oval as he helps publicise the Foreign Office's travel advice.

Talking of travelling fans, how many of them does Panesar reckon will be wearing the BBC Sport Academy's masks which created such a stir last summer?

"I dunno, we'll just see," he says, grinning.

"I guess it was quite amusing when people downloaded those masks when I was playing Test cricket in England last year."

"The support for cricket is good in this country and the World Cup is a great opportunity for the fans to have a good time in the West Indies."

Whatever enjoyment the fans do reap will be multiplied enormously every time they see Panesar take a wicket and begin his wonderful celebration routine.

Check the Foreign Office's travel advice before heading out to support England in the Caribbean

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