Monty in frame of BBC Sports Personality award

Published: Friday, August 11, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
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London:He wanted to be the next Wasim Akram and bounce batsmen but destiny had other plans and Monty Panesar ended up being a spinner, who metamorphosed into a cult figure and now finds himself as the frontrunner for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award.

''It is like when I first started playing cricket, I wanted to be like Wasim Akram - I wanted to be a fast bowler and bowl bouncers. But again I think it was destiny - maybe I was meant to be a spin bowler,'' the mild-mannered Monty told the 'Daily Mirror'.

Being hailed as the new Ashes hope for an injury depleted England side, Monty says all the appreciation -- especially from former greats like Ian Botham -- flatter him but his learning process in international cricket had only just begun.

''It is flattering to hear those things from people who know everything about cricket,'' he said.

''But I still have got a lot to learn. I am working on my version of the doosra -- a ball which turns the other way -- but we will just have to see what happens with it. As I gradually add things, it is one of my ambitions to be the best. It would be nice once day to be recognised as that,'' the shy left-armer added.

The first Sikh to play for England and the hero of England's recent Test triumphs knows he is in the reckoning for the BBC award and admits that he does have an acceptance speech ready in case he wins.

''You will have to see on the television. Assuming I win,'' he told 'The Times'.

He, however, still can't understand the reason for all the attention he has been getting.

''I don't know why I seem to be so popular. I certainly didn't expect it to happen when I first came to play cricket. When I was younger, I just wanted to play cricket for England. Maybe that is my destiny. Not in a religious sense, it is general belief about how things happen,'' he says in a perplexed manner.

The spinner says even his first Test victim, master blaster Sachin Tendulkar, was destiny's work as he never dreamt of getting such a high profile wicket on his debut.

''I didn't expect to dismiss Sachin Tendulkar for my first Test wicket so I put things like that down to destiny,'' he said.Monty also insists that the celebrations that follow after he takes a wicket are not choreographed to amuse the crowd, the high-jumps and the missed high-fives are his natural reactions, which by default ended up becoming a hit with the spectators. ''It just happens naturally -- it is not something I think about. There are no plans to choreograph anything else, it just happens. A few of my team-mates give me a bit of friendly banter about what I do -- it is all good fun,'' he added.

The left-armer's philosophy while bowling is to keep things simple as too much experimentation may back fire against top batsmen.

''I just try to keep it simple and be patient and not complicate things too much, especially against a really good batsman,'' he explained.

Talking about the Ashes and his chances of making it to the squad after getting a thumbs-up from coach Duncan Fletcher, Monty says it would be a dream come true if make it to the team for the big series.

''It is any young cricketers' dream to go there and play on an Ashes tour and it would be fantastic if that were to happen,'' he said, adding that the prospect of bowling in front of an abusive and hostile crowd doesn't intimidate him.

''I am not going to get affected by what people say because I will be focusing on the cricket, on what I am doing for the team,'' he stressed.

A deeply religious person, Monty says he tries to get to visit the temple once every month as it has a calming effect on him. The 24-year-old from Luton, however, is not very comfortable with queries on his religion and the multi-culturalism that he has come to symbolise.

''I don't really think about stuff like that. It all sounds a bit too deep for me. I just like to concentrate on cricket,'' he told in another interview to 'The Times'.

''All I am really focused on is getting things right on the pitch when I get selected for England. It's good for Britain when people, you know, live in a multicultural situation,'' he added.

Monty says he is happy that all the new found fame has had no impact on his personal life and thanks his religion for this.

''Things are on the up for me but they could easily go down again, so I try not to get ahead of myself. My friends do not think that the fame has changed me but they are impressed that I am actually playing for England,'' he said.

Away from cricket, the shy youngster loves the sound of R&B and considers Penelope Cruz as the most beautiful woman in the world.

But is still not ready to reveal whether he has a girlfriend.

''I don't want to go there,'' he said.

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