With roots in Ludhiana, Mohali would have been a homecoming of sorts for Monty Panesar. “I miss makki ki roti and sarson ka saag. I wish I could have been in Mohali so that my friends and relatives could have watched me play. Here I am in Australia, recovering after a shoulder surgery,” Monty Panesar, India’s tormenter in the 2012 series, told HT from Sydney.
Monty, who picked 17 wickets in the series, had combined with off-spinner Graeme Swann (20) as they humbled the hosts in their backyard. Monty, 34, who last played a Test for England three years ago, felt India were exploiting the “lack of menace in English spinners so far”.
Ahead of the Mohali Test, he had some advice for captain Alastair Cook. “Like the 2012 series, when the team was full of specialists, Cook needs to stress on that. I feel England are unpredictable and it is this unpredictability that can turn the tables on India. Play sessions, see when to attack and when not to. Deny India the chance to play at their pace and they will fall in the trap. I remember they prepared a turner in Mumbai and when we spun them out, they didn’t have a Plan B to counter us. It can happen again.”
Monty named two Indians as being critical to the series, “Ravichandran Ashwin is in the form of his life, his temperament is good. He is smart and doesn’t lose patience even when batsmen are set. He knows when to make an impact and has the ability to run through batting orders. Batsmen should not let him bowl to his field, instead they should keep looking for runs,” said Monty.
He felt Kohli had transformed in the last four years. “In 2012, he scored a century against us but he has further tightened his technique. We saw earlier when his head fell towards the off stump, he gave bowlers a chance by wanting to play across the line. He has become mentally strong and his head has been still in this series. That’s why he is not allowing the English bowlers any chance. Jimmy Andersen dominated him in the past and if the Mohali pitch helps him, he will test Virat.”
Monty backed Kohli in the ball-tampering row created by the British media. “These are childish claims, we eat mint and candies all the time while playing. In England, this is a practice and everybody shines the ball with saliva from mint or sweets. I don’t know what they are talking about now,” he said.
He joked about being flown in for the series, saying, “I won’t mind if they ask me to fly down to India and be a net bowler. Jokes apart, I will soon start bowling in grade cricket in Australia and hopefully find a county to play for next season. I would love to play in the IPL and if Santa Claus smiles, this wish will come true.”