Regarded once as England's front-line spin weapon in Test matches, the 35-year-old Monty Panesar has so far played 77 international games where he has taken 193 wickets with an impressive 12 five-wicket hauls to his name.
In an exclusive interview with PakPassion.net, Monty Panesar spoke about his fond memories of bowling to the best players of spin such as Younis Khan, some of the highs and lows of his career so far, his experience of coaching in Australia, his views on the world's top spin bowlers including Ravi Ashwin and Yasir Shah and his struggle to make a return to professional cricket.
By Amir Husain (16th May, 2017)
PakPassion.net : Who has been the best batsman that you have come up against?
Monty Panesar : The batsman I struggled against the most was Matthew Hayden. He was very difficult to bowl to whenever I played against him. The other batsman who was a real challenge for me was Graeme Smith. I believe he averages around 80 against left-arm spinners and for a very good reason.
PakPassion.net : You mention Hayden and Smith, was that because they were the type of batsmen who would look to intimidate a bowler?
Monty Panesar : It was their physique which allowed a longer stride length. As a spinner, it becomes a little difficult to get them out because of the longer stride length. This is because the distance between where the ball pitches and the ball coming onto the bat is less than in a shorter person. We, as spinners, need that distance to be at its greatest so that by the time it’s got to the bat it’s got enough distance for it to turn. I also found it difficult to bowl to Kevin Pietersen and Alastair Cook in the nets due to their stride length.
PakPassion.net : What about some of the other greats you bowled against. Who do you rate highly?
Monty Panesar : It was a great pleasure bowling to Younis Khan as well, who was a fantastic sweeper and had great judgement of length and probably brought the best out of me. You also had the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting, Mahela Jayawardene; all of these players were really good players of spin and they could also pick the length very quickly. They had good judgement in terms of going back and going forward and they would play softly when rotating the strike but when they wanted to punish you, they would really go for it. I was always on edge when bowling to these batsmen and I always found that when I was bowling to really good players, it seemed to get the best out of me. I suppose, I like bowling to top quality batsmen and to challenge myself in that way.
PakPassion.net : What memories do you have of taking Younis Khan’s wicket during the Headingley Test in 2006?
Monty Panesar : I do remember that very well. The ball just clipped the bails and it was a nice piece of bowling, with the ball delivered at a good stride length. When I am bowling at my best, what I tend to do is to turn the ball very sharply. This means that the distance between the bat and the ball can be slightly less because there’s a sharper gradient as the ball is turning quicker.
PakPassion.net : What have been the most memorable moments of your career so far?
Monty Panesar : I really enjoyed the series when Pakistan came over in 2006 and also have great memories of our visit to India in 2012. The 2009 Ashes in England of course, and the South Africa series which we lost here in England in 2008 also stand out as ones to remember. Apart from these excellent series, I have to admit that one place I haven’t done well in is Sri Lanka and also am yet to play a Test in South Africa which is something I would like to have done.
PakPassion.net : As an Asian playing against Asian teams, did that spur you on to better performances against them?
Monty Panesar : I believe those teams just got the best out of me because of the way they played me. I suppose there are spinners who cannot respond well to such batting against them. To others, it’s a challenge in terms of having and implementing a good game-plan against these batsmen. To bowl against such players, you need to be a little sharper in your mind and have to play with concentration and focus.
PakPassion.net : Do you feel you could you have played more than the current tally of 50 Tests?
Monty Panesar : I recall speaking to Rahul Dravid who said I could easily have played hundred Tests with my ability. However, I have played fifty and I will always strive to play more Tests if I can. If I don’t play any more Tests then I will look back and be happy with the number I have played.
PakPassion.net : What was it like recently mentoring Australian spinners before their tour of India?
Monty Panesar : It was really good as I found that kind of relationship works really well if the cricketers have respect and a high regard for you. Then they are very receptive to what you say to them. If they don’t really rate you on your thinking on cricket then it’s difficult to develop a good rapport. It is then also difficult for you as a mentor to get the best out of them. So, that respect and the thought in the coached player’s head that the mentor will really improve me is very important. This becomes an important factor when you are coaching, especially the elite international players.
PakPassion.net : You’ve completed your Level 3 Coaching Certificate, is this something you would like to pursue in future?
Monty Panesar : I coached Under-16s and Under-21s at Campbelltown Camden District Cricket Club in Australia in the 2016/17 season. Although I joined as a player at Campbelltown, the coach Graeme Smith gave me extra responsibility for coaching as well. He told me that you may not be used to this but I want you to learn. He said that I might find things a little difficult or it may all be new to me but then that is one of the purposes you are here for. He wanted me to learn how to coach an Under-16 team as well as how to run an Under-21 team, and hold outdoor nets for the First-grade teams. I found that to be a real educational experience and also found a lot about myself as a player too. I recall in Sri Lanka when I wasn’t picked for the team, I just put on my headphones and Andy Flower had to nudge me to get rid of that attitude and show a bit more team spirit. That is the kind of stuff I look at now and think that maybe I should have improved my behaviour then. But then you only realise that when you are coaching and you see how other players are behaving and wonder if you can step-in, talk to the player and help him improve. Looking back, I suppose I was a little difficult to talk to and couldn’t really help myself either.
PakPassion.net : Apart from Australia, have you been coaching in England as well?
Monty Panesar : I have coached mostly in Australia but in England I have done some spin coaching but then, I have always helped out in coaching for teams that I have played for also. What I find really interesting is that there is always a time and a place for different aspects of coaching. So, this can be coaching for technical and tactical areas or mentoring, but for me, the most important part is getting to know the cricketers you are coaching. This can be done on and off the field and it makes the whole coaching process a lot easier. I believe this relationship makes a huge difference because if you simply speak about cricket to the players then it may not always register in their heads.
PakPassion.net : Who, in your view, were the best coaches you worked with and were the most effective for you?
Monty Panesar : I have always respected Andy Flower. I think he was a really good coach but unfortunately, I probably didn’t get an opportunity to really get to know his coaching. He already had his eleven players set and I was always the guy on the fringe. Only if it was a turning wicket and they needed two spinners would I play in those games. Regardless, I always admired him as a coach. Mark Robinson, the Sussex Coach, was probably one coach who got the best out of me. He was like a father figure which was in line with his style of coaching. If he felt that you were capable of taking on that extra responsibility then he would give it to you and that’s what he did for me at Sussex which was to give me that extra responsibility at key stages of a game. In addition. I have always admired Peter Moores as I do like his style of coaching and the way he goes about his job. The fact is that each of the coaches have their own unique style but Duncan Fletcher, in my view, was very quiet and didn’t say much. He was more observant than the talking type of coach and probably at the other end of the spectrum as far as coaching styles go. So, everyone has a different style and it’s been proven that any style is successful as demonstrated by the fact that all the names I have mentioned are successful coaches. This also proves that there isn’t one way of coaching and you can coach in the way that best works for you and still be successful.
PakPassion.net : You’ve had some tough times recently. You must be looking to putting those behind you?
Monty Panesar : Yes, I am looking forward to the future in an optimistic way. I am looking to play club cricket and Northamptonshire have provided me with some training facilities. I am also trying to get involved with Middlesex and the MCC and doing some bowling there as well. The idea is to keep on working and hopefully someone will give me a chance. If I can take wickets in club cricket and minor counties games then hopefully, someone will give me an opportunity to come and train with a County. It is then possible that they will give me a second team game to see how my bowling is and how my character fits into their team.
PakPassion.net : Looking back, do you have any regrets or thoughts about how things could have turned out differently?
Monty Panesar : I think we always have regrets for things that have happened in the past. I had that incident at Sussex which probably didn’t help my cause. I guess after all that, I was very lucky to get an opportunity at Essex but still couldn’t manage to grab that chance with both hands. Thankfully, I am much better now. I just need to keep on training and maintain my fitness which is much better than before. My shoulder is also much better now. All I need to do is to keep on persevering and keep working hard. At the moment, these eighteen County team coaches are the most important people in my life and I will be knocking on all eighteen doors and hopefully one of them will answer.
PakPassion.net : With the experience of highs and lows in your career, you would be in a perfect position to share that knowledge with young cricketers.
Monty Panesar : Absolutely. I can share my experience with the young cricketers and help prevent them facing some of the issues I have had to face in my career so far.
PakPassion.net : Who amongst the modern-day spinners impresses you the most?
Monty Panesar : I am impressed by Yasir Shah, Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja as they are all excellent bowlers. Ashwin in particular has been phenomenal in terms of how many wickets he has taken in Test cricket and has really been successful in all three forms of the game. I believe he has taken spin-bowling to the next level. Of course, Harbhajan Singh is my hero and what really impresses me about him is his longevity in that how he keeps on performing at a high-level for such a long period of time. In Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid, England has two bowlers who have come along and proved themselves to be good spinners. They have found a way of being successful and have done a great job whenever they have got a chance to play for England.
PakPassion.net : You have always been a crowd favourite, especially when it came to your batting and fielding. How was that experience?
Monty Panesar : I think that was just a reflection of my energy and enthusiasm for the game. I believe that is exactly how everyone would have liked me to play my cricket. In a way, I was a little inexperienced and innocent in terms of expressing that kind of energy in the earlier parts of my career. But it is that kind of enthusiasm and energy that really lifts everyone in the team and that is also an aspect of the game that the coaches are hopefully looking for from me. So, they are asking me to not only help them with the game but are also recognising my energy and love for the game which helps the whole team to rise to the challenge as well. That’s the kind of energy I need to connect with and play my cricket in that way.
PakPassion.net : What’s the future hold for you and what would you like to achieve from cricket in the next few years?
Monty Panesar : All I wish to do is to get back to playing professional cricket. I will continue pursuing that dream and I will give it my best, as I am desperate to play top-level cricket again.