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Monty: Wholly unabridged

England's turbanator tells G Krishnan how he started as a fast bowler and switched to spin at the age of 15.

india Updated: Feb 18, 2006 15:22 IST
G Krishnan

He might be the first Sikh to be selected to play for the England cricket team. But for Mudhsuden 'Monty' Singh Panesar, it doesn't mean much. He believes he is like any other debutant, excited to represent his country.

In a chat with Hindustan Times here on Friday, the computer management degree holder said he started as a fast bowler but switched to spin at the age of 15.

Excerpts:

How does it feel to be the first Sikh to be picked for England?

It's nice but I am not the first Asian to be selected. There have been other Asians who have done a lot for English cricket. It's something I don't really look into. I am just here to train with the England team, enjoy my game and try to develop it as much as I can. It's a good opportunity for me to learn from other spinners, especially from those in the sub-continent.

What made you take up spin?

When I was young, I wanted to become a fast bowler. When I was 15, I became interested in spin. It was all local coaches and also former Test cricketer Paul Taylor, who was at my training session and said 'have a look at bowling spin'.

How much of your U-19 experience touring India in 2000 will help this time?

That was a good tour because I hadn't played any first-class cricket before coming here and the batsmen here play spinners very well. I was here to see how they play and it was something I could take back and work on. Realistically, it's going to be a very, very tough tour. Batsmen here play spin very well. I am going to always be on my toes.

With over 100 first-class wickets, how confident are you of playing for England?

Last year, I had a very good season where my game improved a lot. Kepler Wessels helped me simplify my game, and made me stick to my disciplines. That will give me confidence here. I bowled against good players of spin last year; there were overseas players for other counties. I am going to keep it simple within myself, stick to my discipline and give myself the best chance.

You consider Phil Tufnell as your role model. Why Tufnell, a maverick?

Tufnell was a very good bowler. With so much control over his bowling, you always felt he had the batsman sensed out. I liked him for the way he set different fields to different batsmen and bowled differently. So there wasn't just one type of bowling. Also, Ashley Giles has had a major impact on me because he is a very good all-round cricketer. He has got world-class batsmen out with strategy, the last time he came; he got Sachin Tendulkar out stumped.

How much help have you sought from Bishan Bedi?

He is obviously a legend of left-arm spin. I was just trying to learn little things and see what I can do with my game. It is a good opportunity to try and talk to him and learn some things. You studied at Loughborough University and so had to skip cricket for a while.

Was it a choice between career and cricket?

At Loughborough, we had the cricketing side of things as well, which was good. Former England pacer Graham Dilley was the coach there. The University did play first-class games against other teams like pre-season warm-ups. While we were not at the county, we still got some chance to play cricket. It gave us a good chance to bowl to county players. It gives you a good preparation to do your cricket side of things while you are studying and when you go back to county, you are ready.

You also went to the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide recently. How helpful was that?

It was very good. Wessels thought that was the right place to go and work on various things.

So, Wessels has had a huge influence on your game.

He has been fantastic for me. Him being such a mentally strong coach helped me immensely. He's been good with me, kept things simple. That has helped my game.

You have been doing extra fielding and catching sessions since coming here. Why?

That's just my general routine, I do it all the time Whatever we do as a group, we do that. But then, I have my own small one-to-one ses sions after that to keep on top of the game. I have been doing it for the last 5 years anyway.

Do you speak Punjabi?

Yeah, a little bit. I am not a practicing Sikh, though. I just follow the principles. Whenever I can, I go to the gurudwara.

You have a passion for cars?

I love cars. I have got a few friends who have BMWs.

What are you other interests?

Music, watching movies, spending time with friends. I follow some Hindi movies here and there.