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Monty Panesar ready to learn in Australia

Published: Wednesday, November 1, 2006, 23:53 [IST]
 
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London:Eighteen months ago Monty Panesar was concentrating on his degree and had yet to unleash his finger spin on the international stage.

Now as England prepare to defend the Ashes in Australia he has found himself in the spotlight and already the target of some pre-series sledging.

''I guess that these things happen pre-Ashes,'' Panesar told reporters.

''It's something you just accept, something, which is part of cricket. But I think we as a squad just focus on what we need to do and we keep it within that.'' Last month in a radio interview Australian fast bowler Glenn McGrath had called Panesar 'soft' because he had visited the England team's psychologist Steve Bull.

The mild-mannered 24-year-old appears to have taken it all in his stride.

''Eighteen months ago I was doing my dessertation and he probably hadn't heard of me. So if you put things into context then it is flattering that he's heard of me and knows who I am,'' said Panesar before adding that the visit to the psychologist had been with the team.

The left-arm orthodox spinner sprung to international notice in February when he was selected for the tour of India in place of the injured Ashley Giles and promptly opened his Test account with the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar.

Since then he has become something of a cult hero in England with supporters turning up to Test matches dressed in fake beards and patkas, the style of turban Panesar wears to hold his long hair.

Two Spinners: Panesar, the first Sikh to represent England, has played 10 Tests and taken 32 wickets with a best match tally of eight for 93 against Pakistan in Manchester in July.

Despite his rapid rise up the ranks, Panesar is not guaranteed a place in the Ashes side now fellow left-arm spinner Giles, an integral member of the team that won in 2005, is fit again after almost a year out with a hip problem.

However, Panesar, is happy to treat the Ashes as a learning experience and has suggested there might be the opportunity for both spinners to play in a match. ''It's the first time I'm going to be with Ashley Giles in the squad and I think it's really good for me to learn from him, from his experience, how he prepares, just everything really. I'm really looking forward to it,'' said Panesar, who is on the shortlist for the International Cricket Council's Emerging Player of the Year award.

''I think there is a chance (of using two spinners), maybe in Adelaide and there's a mention of Perth as well.

''It really depends on the conditions but Sydney is probably the most turning wicket out there so there is a good chance that there we'll go with two spinners.

''Obviously, you're not guaranteed a spot in the first test match I've got to hopefully just try my best and leave the rest to the coach and the captain. They know what's best there.'' Panesar has played in Australia once before - four years ago with the England Cricket Academy.

''Things were pretty comfortable out there. I got a few wickets and with the way the pitches are, there is a bit of bounce there and that helps the spinners.''

Team Spirit: The Ashes, which start with the Brisbane Test on Nov 23, will be akin to a baptism of fire for Panesar and the Australians have already said they plan to target him.

''They'll obviously look to come after me (since) they have come after other world class spinners. World class spinners have gone to Australia and they haven't had as much success as they'd like so it's going to be tough for me out there.

''It'll be a matter of my own development - how I combat it and how I deal with it. It will be a new sort of learning curve for my development.'' England was comprehensively beaten by Australia in their most recent meeting last month, albeit a one-dayer in the Champions Trophy.

Panesar, though, was quietly confident England's team spirit would be enough to see them through any bad patch.

''What we did in India where we drew 1-1 with an inexperienced squad showed the togetherness and the unity we have as a team,'' he said.

''These are the areas that get us through tough situations and that's what we as a unit will probably be looking for in Australia where it will be very important that we stick tight together as a unit.''

Reuters

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