Panesar returns to Northants squad
Monty Panesar will take another step towards resuming his professional career on Wednesday when he embarks on Northamptonshire's pre-season tour to Barbados.
Although Panesar, who underwent shoulder surgery in December, is not yet fit to return to bowling, he will continue his rehab and take the opportunity to get to know the squad. As an experienced player, the club also hope his insight will prove valuable to a relatively young group of players.
Northants have not yet offered Panesar a contract. While hopes that his salary may be subsidised by the ECB have faltered - they contributed to his pay while he was with Essex - it is still possible that sponsorship could be agreed to help Northants pay for him. At present, the club - who announced significant losses for the second year in succession earlier this week - have only a modest sum (perhaps as little as £15,000) to offer which had been allocated towards signing a second overseas player in the NatWest Blast.
If Panesar is able to recover his fitness, however, there is little doubt he could prove a significant asset to Northants. The club have, at present, a playing staff of just 15 and Panesar's ability to bowl long, tight spells could ease the burden on the rest of the attack.
The prospect of an England recall can't be entirely discounted, either. While there may be some bridges to build, such is Panesar's ability and England's pressing need for a potent spin attack ahead of the winter tours of Bangladesh and India that it remains just about possible he could stake a claim over the next few months. Aged 33, he potentially has several years ahead of him in the professional game.
On a more basic level, many will celebrate the idea of Panesar simply returning to cricket. He first captured the imagination as a highly skilled spinner whose enthusiasm for the game was infectious. Somewhere along the way, though, those qualities became somewhat clouded and he has, at times, appeared something of a troubled soul. He was dropped from both his previous sides, Essex and Sussex, due to disciplinary issues. The thought that a move back to the club where he stated out might help him put his troubles behind him is encouraging.
A move back to Northamptonshire appeals for several reasons. Not only would it enable him to live close to his family in Luton and benefit from their stabilising influence, but it is close to the Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) he attends in Coventry.
Panesar emerged through the youth system at Bedfordshire and Northants and played some of his best cricket for the club. But he lost his central contract at a time when Northants were committed to the signing of Nicky Boje and, with the club struggling to fulfil his salary expectations, he was allowed to leave for Sussex at the end of the 2009 season.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo