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October 24, 2013
Pastoral care will be on Alastair Cook's list of responsibilities in Australia, alongside run-scoring and captaincy, as England try to ensure that Monty Panesar does not suffer a return to the problems he encountered during the recent English season.
Panesar's 2013 season came off the rails following a night out in Brighton where he was fined for being drunk and disorderly after urinating on a bouncer. It was the tipping point for a collection of issues, which stretched back over the preceding year or more.
He subsequently left Sussex and joined Essex on loan where he began the process of repairing his form and reputation, although his season finished with suspended ban from the ECB for a 'kick' aimed at an opposition batsman, during a Championship match against Worcestershire*, when he became frustrated during a spell.
However, he did enough to persuade the England hierarchy that he was capable of taking on a full tour to Australia as the back-up spinner to Graeme Swann, but it came with a warning from Geoff Miller, the national selector, that it was down to Panesar himself to live up to his promise that he had turned a corner.
Panesar has been given professional help during his problems but Cook knows that life as a support player, who may not have a huge role to play on the tour, can be difficult one. The Australian media are also likely to bring up the recent indiscretions while the local crowds won't be shy of making a few comments whether Panesar is playing in a match or just carrying drinks.
"Sometimes he struggles with long tours, I think that's fairly common knowledge, but we can look after him and that's one of the responsibilities we have as a leadership group," Cook said. "We've just got to make sure we look after him off the field. As a second spinner you know you might not play games and it can be very hard to carry the drinks at times. We need to get Monty in the right frame of mind so that if he's called upon, because you never know with injuries, that he's ready to play."
The England squad spent the weekend at their team-bonding trip in the Midlands - a far more tame affair compared to the fierce forest experience in Bavaria in 2010, which left James Anderson with a fractured rib - and it allowed Cook time to speak to Panesar while he has also gained feedback from his Essex team-mates.
"He's had a tough year or so," Cook said. "A lot of us didn't quite know what he was going through, if we are honest, and it all came to a line with a couple of incidents in the summer. I can speak about what the guys at Essex have said about him, about how he's coped, and I certainly think he's on the right path."
"He'll always have to work at that and the first thing has been recognising that he did have a problem as he has said. He says he's ready to go again. We are going to have to work well with him and look after him, but the bottom line is he's a fantastic bowler."
This will be Panesar's third tour to Australia. In 2006-07 he played three Tests after replacing Ashley Giles and claimed a five-wicket haul in his first innings of the series in Perth, but was not needed during the 2010-11 contest.
*1.45pmBST, October 24: The story was amended to correct Northamptonshire to Worcestershire as the county Panesar was facing
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
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