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Page last updated at 14:39 GMT, Thursday, 8 October 2009 15:39 UK

Forgotten Monty

Monty Panesar in action for England
Monty Panesar's last Test appearance for England was in the first Ashes Test

The previous 12 months have been largely forgettable for Monty Panesar, who has just been omitted from both England's one-day and Test squads for the winter tour to South Africa.

The left-arm spinner, who has 126 wickets in 39 Test matches, has also lost his England central contract.

In a candid question and answer session, he tells Neil Burns about where things started to go wrong, his winter challenge playing first-class cricket in South Africa and how his improved batting skills helped win the Ashes.


NB: The past 12 months has been a challenging period in your career. How would you describe it?

MP: It has been a tough time. But I am resilient and determined to bounce back. It has given me a chance to reflect on where I am and what I need to do differently in the future to increase my chances of success.

Q: Your central contract has not been renewed for the first time in your career. Graeme Swann has become the premier spinner for England, while Adil Rashid has shown early promise in Twenty20 games. How do you intend to respond to this setback?

Sachin Tendulkar bats against Monty Panesar in Mumbai
Sachin Tendulkar's majestic 103 not out saw India to victory in 2008

A: I do not think I am entitled to anything in life. Rewards and opportunities should be earned. I felt I didn't earn another central contract. I am going to play for Highveld Lions in the South African domestic season as part of my process to get back in the England team.

I want to be ready next year in England when I intend to get some strong performances behind me to get myself back in the England team as a better bowler and wiser person.

I take inspiration from Steve Waugh, who was left out of the Australian Test team for a year in 1991. He came back even stronger and dominated Test cricket in the second half of his outstanding career.

Q: Can you pinpoint when and where the reverse in your fortunes began?

A: It started from late October last year where I had opportunity to go to Sri Lanka and get some bowling done to prepare myself to face India. I hadn't bowled for England since the last Test match at The Oval against South Africa and felt I needed to get some overs under my belt, even though I did play at the end of the season with Northants.

I think the break in between end of September and the first Test in India was long enough for me to play competitive cricket and I felt Sri Lanka was the right opportunity.

There was a problem with the ECB and Sri Lanka regarding compensation, so it didn't happen unfortunately. I went with the performance squad instead, but that trip to India was aborted after a few days because of the Mumbai bombings.

With the uneasy state that India had been through after the terrorist attacks, preparation was more difficult for those of us who hadn't acclimatised in the one-dayers. Going to Sri Lanka last autumn was important for me because I like to bowl and I wanted some match practice to get ready for India, especially knowing their confidence was so high after winning the one-day series.

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All bowlers need rhythm and it doesn't matter how many nets you have, it is overs in the middle which count. I wanted to be on top of my game after the disappointment of not winning at Edgbaston when Graeme Smith played a very good match-winning innings for South Africa.

As it turned out, I came face to face with Sachin Tendulkar in top form and came off second best in the Mumbai Test. The slowness of the pitches in India can make spin bowling a challenge if you don't find your length early in your spell plus the fact that they have great players of spin too makes the challenge even greater.

I loved my first tour when I got Sachin as my first Test wicket and we drew the series under Freddie's captaincy. This time around, the tour was very different. Sadly the fall-out from this tour was the coach and captain being dismissed when we got home.

Q: We both travelled to South Africa at New Year coaching young cricketers and spent time at a retreat and in Johannesburg, prior to you going to West Indies. How helpful was that experience for you?

A: The West Indies Tour presented another challenge so I paid for myself to go out to South Africa to prepare. I spent some time practising with The Highveld Lions and spent time with their chief executive Alan Kourie, who was very helpful as a fellow left-arm spinner.

Me and Jimmy were counting down the balls and when it was over, I was unsure how to celebrate

Monty Panesar on his Cardiff heroics

Dave Nosworthy (coach) and Alviro Petersen (captain) accommodated my practise needs within their team practice, and I formed some important relationships with key people on this trip. Former South Africa batsman Daryll Cullinan was good to talk to about the game. His record shows he was a very good player and it was interesting listening to him talk about the ups and downs of Test cricket.

I also enjoyed the coaching work we did in my role as an ambassador for the LCCC. To visit the poorer areas of Johannesburg and experience the passion of the young cricketers we worked with was a highlight of the trip. I hope to follow up on my return trip this winter and sharing the benefit of my experiences on and off the field to help others.

Q: Your role in England's Ashes success this summer made you an unlikely hero with the bat at Cardiff. Your county batting form also has reached new heights. What has been behind the transformation?

A: Hard work throughout the year, particularly in the off-season and the increased self-belief it has given me. It all came together at one place and at a really important time in the match and series.

I have changed my method of batting and look to get over to off stump much more, as well as being more positive by looking to score when the bowlers bowl into my favoured areas. Northants have given me opportunity to go up the order and I enjoyed playing my part in some key partnerships which have contributed to us winning games.

I also appreciated Mark Ramprakash's encouraging words and support after I played well against Surrey on a difficult pitch and made 38, one short of my career best. I averaged 33% higher in 2009 than my career average with the bat.

Q: What was going through your mind during the innings at Cardiff?

A: Take my time. Try to stay relaxed. Stay focused on my breathing. Take one ball at a time and enjoy it!

James Anderson and Monty Panesar after saving the Test for England
England's unlikely first-Test batting heroes

Me and Jimmy (James Anderson) were counting down the balls and when it was over, I was unsure how to celebrate. I don't think one of my high-fives would have been right, but it was a brilliant feeling to have saved the Test.

Q: Despite being in every squad for the Ashes Tests except for the defeat at Headingley, your only appearance was in the first Test at Cardiff. How has it felt to have been on the outside of the team after three years as a central figure?

A: It has been a different experience, but all part of being a professional cricketer. Much as you want to play all the time and be on top form it isn't always possible. What matters most is how you deal with the cards you are given.

Obviously, you want to be part of it and make a huge contribution. However, you realise when you are not in the team it is really important to help the players in the XI playing by either giving them space or by helping in whatever way with their preparation.

Driving away from Lord's to play for Northants after not being selected was really tough, especially after saving the game in Cardiff. I have a good record at Lord's but understood that two spinners were unlikely to play and Swanny had done well against West Indies.

Neil Burns is a former wicketkeeper/batsman with Essex, Somerset and Leicestershire and the managing director of London County Cricket Club.



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see also
Jonathan Agnew column
08 Oct 09 |  England
England omit Harmison for SA tour
08 Oct 09 |  England
Panesar joins S Africa franchise
05 Oct 09 |  England
Harmison & Panesar lose contracts
11 Sep 09 |  England
Panesar ready for England call-up
11 Aug 09 |  Northants
Warne backs Rashid over Panesar
25 Jun 09 |  England
England changes 'put off Panesar'
09 Apr 09 |  England
Strauss 'fresh' for England duty
13 Jan 08 |  England


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