Former England spinner Nick Cook said he had the first glimpse of a 16-year-old Monty Panesar bowling for the second division side and convinced him of one thing.
''I had two players in that second XI side who I said would play for England and one was Monty Panesar. But, I just wish I'd had the courage of my convictions and bet on him being the first Sikh to play for England. I could have made a few bob,'' Cook was quoted as saying by Daily Telegraph today.
Cook, whose left-arm spin brought him 15 caps for England, was Panesar's coach and second XI captain when the latter first played for Northamptonshire in 1998 as a Bedfordshire schoolboy. Cook, however, left Northamptonshire at the end of the 2003 season, just as Panesar's career had run into trouble.
Panesar made his county debut against Leicestershire in 2001 and took eight for 131 but a winter England Under-19s tour to India followed and his career started to stall. He only played 12 first-class matches in three seasons before his breakthrough summer last year, when he took 46 championship wickets.
Lavishing praise to his former ward for the ball that dipped, turned and bowled Mohammad Kaif in the Nagpur Test.
''I played for 18 years and I never bowled a delivery like the one that got Kaif in the first innings. His two bowleds were absolute peach deliveries. That is what Monty can do for you,'' Cook said.
''He came and had a limited overs game for the second XI against Oxford University and he made everybody stand up and take notice.'' ''He had a good action, he spun the ball massive and he has hands like dinner plates. He has massive fingers and he can turn it on glass.
We knew we had a very special talent on our hands. He had a great work ethic and would sometimes practise too much. I would have to drag him out of the nets.''
''I've been disappointed with people saying he can't bat and that he is a walking wicket. If he is still playing in 10 years then he will be batting at No 8 for England.'' Cook, however, feel that Moty's talent may pose problems for England's game plan.
''Ashley Giles keeps an end plugged up and he has done a great job but whether Monty can do that I don't know,'' he said.
''But if Monty continues to impress and take wickets he will put a massive question to the England management. Maybe they will have to change the dynamics of the team for Monty. That is a big question Duncan Fletcher may have to answer one day.''