In 17 Tests he has amassed 65 wickets at a respectable bowling average of 28.4. In this short span of time, he has proven that with his child- like exuberance he creates a vibe that brings out the best in him and one that is bound to rub off on his teammates. He spun onto the main cricketing stage for his team when he visited India in March of 2006. It was a nostalgic trip, for he was visiting the land of his ethnic origins. He would always remember it mostly, for his maiden Test wicket, that of arguably one of the worlds best batsmen, Sachin Tendulkar. In the home series against Pakistan that followed, Panesar in his own back yard took no less than 17 wickets in the four outings that he had, with his best performance in the 2nd Test, where he got his first five for. With this showing, he was now definitely the new find of English Cricket.
Despite this praiseworthy start, Monty was not the preferred spinner to play in the first two Tests of the Ashes later that year. Coach Duncan Fletcher chose Ashley Giles, over young Panesar. But in the third, (they say third time lucky not for nothing) the spinner sporting his trademark black patka was called in to play for the side. With his attacking approach, he became the first Englishman to amass 5 wickets at the WACA in Perth. The left arm spinner made a statement to his coach and there was no looking back. In the 3 matches that he played he captured a total of ten wickets, making it a personal achievement in an otherwise forgetable Ashes series.
The next most significant event in Monty Panesars cricketing life was the 2007 ICC World Cup. In the eight matches that he played he got 7 wickets for his efforts the third best performance for his country. With the culmination of the event, the coach, Duncan Fletcher resigned. Monty Panesar may just be able to breathe easier, as he wont have to keep facing a test to prove himself to Fletcher. This does not mean that the young man will stop trying. It is in his nature to attack with every ball and with his melodramatic celebration after scalping a wicket - the cricket loving folk would want that he takes many wickets, for that sight is one Montastic special.
In the recently concluded home series against the West Indies, Monty once again proved that he is a match winner. He topped the bowling averages for England bucketing 23 wickets in the 4 matches played with a super healthy average of 18.69. Achieving his personal best bowling figures of 6/129 and his first ten wicket haul in a match. Certainly a Test series that Panesar will remember for all the right reasons.
In England, he has become an icon in a short span of time. Specially for the Asians in England. Fans sport his Black Patka, and even slap on some hair to ape his beard. For the Sikh Community he is a trophy they can hold up high, as he became the first Sikh to play for any country outside of India. It is not surprising then that this is perhaps one of the reasons why he is compared with Indias spinning legend Bishan Singh Bedi. Not only for style but because they belong to the same community. The other reason why he has endeared himself to the fans is his comical and sometimes detrimental style of fielding. Detrimental, because he ends up fumbling with the ball and comical, because his 6 foot body frame is at conflict with his mind!
The Indian Summer in England is one tour that Panesar would be waiting for. The time has arrived for him to guile perhaps the best players of spin - the Indians. Ofcourse he has dealt with them before on his maiden Test tour to India, but it will be interesting to see how he tackles the batsmen this time around. He could bank on the fact that the Indians have a rather poor track record in England. Of the 45 matches played, they have only won 4!! He also expressed his surprise over the fact that the Indian turbanator, Harbhajan Singh was not in the squad, and perhaps feels a little more relieved! Bhajji will however be watching from close quarters, as he will play for the County side, Surrey! Maybe the two men will share a cuppa tea and some crumpets as they talk cricket!!
Panesar is hot property and he could be proud of the fact that in 2006, he has taken as many as 40 wickets in the 12 Test matches and in 2007 he has 25 in just 5 matches. In the shorter format of the game he has 16 wickets to his credit in 17 outings!! Thanks to these achievements, he has also shot in the to top ten of the ICC Test Bowler Rankings, and lies in 6th place, as I write this piece. This also makes him the highest rated Spinner in England since Derek Underwood.
An intelligent cricketer who does his homework, Monty panesar knows that this home series against India, he will have to emerge a winner, not only for himself, but for his country, or should one say his familys adopted country - England. One thing is for sure. His fans will be out there sporting that black headgear and those artificial beards, filling the air with the resounding chants of Monty, monty, monty !! By the way dont forget to log into www.monty-panesar.com. Yes, that is his official site.
Could he be the turning point ( literally ) for the upcoming series? Watch this space!!