Panesar feared for England career
Monty Panesar, the England spinner who has endured a troubled season, has welcomed the chance to resurrect his international career after being included in the Ashes squad to tour Australia.
Panesar was released by his county, Sussex, after a drunken night out in Brighton culminated in him urinating on bouncers outside a club, and he feared he had "thrown away" his England career. However, since making his apologies to the England management and taking up various offers of help to deal with his problems, he is hopeful of making a fresh start.
"I just can't tell you how thrilled I am with the selection," he told the Mail on Sunday. "It's an incredible boost I needed as a cricketer and as a person, after a chapter in my life I'm ashamed of. The support I've had from everyone has been overwhelming and my only focus now is to repay them for their amazing faith in me."
Panesar was fined by the police for being drunk and disorderly over the nightclub incident and footage of him being taken away from a late-night fast-food outlet subsequently appeared on YouTube. Shortly afterwards, Sussex announced that he would be released from his contract at the end of the season and he agreed to join Essex on loan.
"I know it looks terrible but I wasn't as drunk as people believe," Panesar said of the night in question, when he was out with a number of Sussex team-mates. "Yes, I'd had a lot to drink, but I wasn't paralytic. I was asked to leave and then got caught short. The next thing I knew the bouncers were shouting at me and running after me.
"I swear I didn't see them and I had no intention of purposefully urinating on them or near them. To be honest, I barely went at all and I'm pretty sure I didn't hit them but the next moment I'm thinking, 'Oh my God, they're chasing me', and I ran to the pizza place. That's where they caught me and a local decided to film it and put it on YouTube.
"The next morning I woke up and thought, 'What have I done?' My first reaction was that I'd just thrown my England career away, maybe even my whole cricket career. I felt very lonely and very depressed. It was a very dark time."
As well as phonecalls to Andy Flower, England's team director, and the captain, Alastair Cook, Panesar also got back in touch with Neil Burns, the former Leicestershire and Somerset wicketkeeper who is now a professional mentor and coach. He denied that his divorce in 2011 had contributed to his problems and said that the support from his family and the Sikh community had helped him to turn things around. He has also taken up yoga and not touched alcohol in the last six weeks.
"I've had a lot of help from people like Neil Burns, my long-time friend and mentor, who has helped me to learn to make a point of integrating far more with my new team-mates at Essex, as well as the staff and fans there. It's really helped, as has yoga. I used to do it a bit but since the incident I do it every morning without fail. It's helped to put me in a better place, both mentally and physically."
Panesar's inclusion in England's Ashes squad was subject to plenty of debate and the question of his suitability was raised again on Friday, when he was given a suspended ban by the ECB for "threatening and intimidating behaviour" in a county match. However, the 31-year-old, who is not yet certain where he will be playing next season, believes that his "passion is back" and said he is ready to perform the role of Graeme Swann's understudy that he is so familiar with.
"I wouldn't say I was either threatening or intimidating but I will admit to becoming incredibly frustrated because I was having no luck at all, with inside edges and catches falling just short," Panesar said. "I have to be aggressive when I bowl but it was a minor incident that I accept. The ECB and I have spoken about it and I must be mindful of my behaviour, but it's not seen as a problem by England.
"At least it shows my passion is back, I suppose. I know there's a chance I might not get a Test match in Australia but I am determined to be eager, positive, supportive and ready if a chance comes my way. I'm hoping I can be involved in a fourth consecutive Ashes victory and I'm very confident I will be, even if it's as a squad member."