County news April 4, 2016

Panesar added to Northamptonshire squad

Monty Panesar could return to the county scene following his problems at Essex © Getty Images

Monty Panesar, the left-arm spinner, has been made part of Northamptonshire's squad for the 2016 season, although the club have stressed he still faces a challenge to earn selection once he recovers from shoulder surgery.

Alex Wakely, the Northants captain, said that some "honest conversations" have been had with Panesar and he will have to prove himself worthy of selection but he sees his presence as a boost.

Last month, Panesar paid his own way on Northamptonshire's pre-season tour of Barbados as he continued his rehabilitation from surgery.

He has not signed a contract with the club and is not currently being paid. While he has returned to bowling at something close to full pace, he is still thought to be two or three weeks away from match fitness following shoulder surgery before Christmas.

"I would be very excited to have Monty as part of the squad as his Test pedigree and experience will be really helpful to the rest of the lads," Wakely said. "We've all had some honest conversations but he is fitting in really well. He still has to prove his worth and Graeme White is bowling very well at the moment so he still faces some challenges to get a place on a team."

Panesar, who has played 50 Tests for England, the last of which was on the 2013-14 Ashes tour, started his career with Northamptonshire having come through the youth system. In 2009 he moved to Sussex and then in 2015 to Essex but he suffered disciplinary issues at both clubs.

David Ripley, the Northants coach, said: "Monty has worked hard at his fitness which is progressing. He joined us on our pre-season tour to Barbados of his own volition where he fitted in well with the rest of the lads. He will now have to prove himself for selection."

Should Panesar perform well, there is nothing to stop another club offering him a contract at any time. Northants' financial troubles are well documented and, however well he bowls, there is limited scope to pay him the sums he warranted not so long ago.

Such concerns are not at the forefront of anyone's mind at present. After a difficult period in his life, Panesar is focused more on recovering his fitness and his enjoyment for cricket. If he can manage those things, there is no reason he cannot enjoy several more productive years in the game.

While a return to the England side is a distant possibility, it continues to serve as a motivation.

"I really want to be part of the England set-up," Panesar told the BBC. "If it doesn't happen then at least I tried my best. I'm confident I can bowl the way I used to bowl.

"There's a sub-continent winter tour in Bangladesh and India which keeps me motivated and it's something I want to be part of.

"I know I've got a lot of hard work ahead of me, but I'm prepared to do that."

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo