''I don't see myself as the number one spin bowler in the side,'' the 25-year-old Northamptonshire left-armer told Reuters.
''The only reason I say that is because I am still young and need to learn. That number one tag is quite a strong statement.'' While Panesar is undoubtedly the most experienced spinner in the squad, he faces a challenge for his place from Nottinghamshire's uncapped Graeme Swann who performed well in the one-day series victory in Sri Lanka last month.
The duo could also bowl in tandem in the hot and dry conditions, as did spinners Ashley Giles and Robert Croft when England won 2-1 in Sri Lanka in 2001.
Off-spinner Swann has an extra string to his bow in that he is also a capable lower middle-order batsman.
Panesar, who has taken 73 wickets in 20 tests since his debut against India in Nagpur in March 2006, will hope to use a few tips from opposition danger-man Muttiah Muralitharan.
Muralitharan offered Panesar advice after bowling Sri Lanka to victory over England at Nottingham in June 2006.
''We sat down and had a chat about spin bowling,'' said Panesar, who has been busy promoting his new DVD 'Monty's Cricket Madness'.
''To get that chance with Muralitharan was fantastic as he knows so much about spin. Hopefully, I will be able to learn from what he said.'' Panesar said the best advice he received was to keep things simple.
''He said you should always try to turn the ball but don't complicate things by trying to bowl too many different types of delivery and just keep it simple,'' said Panesar.
''I thought it was good advice. It's nice to get the views of world-class spinners and it's always interesting to know how they go about things to see if it can help your game.'' The first test in Kandy starts on December 1.