At a time when the paucity of spinners is a matter of profound concern for the England international side, Monty Panesar should be pushing for an England recall. Instead Panesar has endured a troubled start to 2015, leading him to take an indefinite break from the game and seek help from the Professional Cricketers' Association.

Panesar has only just turned 33 and is second only to Graeme Swann among England's spin bowlers since Derek Underwood. But even his future as a county cricketer is uncertain. His contract with Essex expires at the end of the summer, and it is understood that Panesar is unlikely to be offered a new deal.

Neil Burns, Panesar's mentor and coach, had confirmed that Panesar had flirted with retirement earlier in 2015. But he now says Panesar, who he is working with extensively, plans to return to the game this season.

"I wouldn't want to put a timeline on that but hopefully soon. When he's really happy with his game that's when he'll decide he's ready to come and play full-time. Hopefully by being nurtured in a quiet way away from the spotlight he's going to be right on top of his game as and when the time is right for him to re-enter the first-class arena."

Burns is working to reinvigorate Panesar's love for the game. "At his best he bowls with real passion and puts all of himself into his bowling - so it's not just a technical thing, it's that real desire to spin the ball hard and be an aggressive spin bowler. That's about ensuring that all of his energy is in the right place at the right time.

"Sometimes when players go through ups and downs in their lives then one's love for the game can be challenged. A big part of my work is helping Monty to get really back in love with the game that's been such a central part of his life."

Panesar made an encouraging first step, albeit a very tentative one, when he recorded figures of 4-16 against Essex for Ravi Bopara's All Star team in a benefit match for Bopara at Chelmsford on Thursday night. His career has been at a very low point. He must take hope where he can.

"The performance for the All Stars against Essex was really important. Confidence for any sports person is the most important aspect," Burns said. "It was nice that that happened. It was also lovely for him being in the company of some really good friends in the All Stars team who recognise his quality and realise that Monty is one of the most exciting talents in world cricket."

Panesar retains hope of playing for England again. "That's one of the biggest drivers in a professional players' career," Burns said. "It's only 30 months ago that he bowled Sachin out twice in the match in Mumbai, so that's a memory that's not that far away."

"There are always going to be moments when you wonder if your time has come and gone. But everybody has it in them to be available and force the selectors' hands through sheer weight of performance."

But it will be a long way back. Panesar's last professional game was a Championship match at The Oval at the end of April. At the start of May Essex signed Adeel Malik, a 29-year-old legspinner who had taken eight wickets in 14 games in Pakistani first-class cricket, on a three-month contract. Aron Nijjar, a 20-year-old left-armer, has also provided spin in Panesar's absence. A former England spinner who has fallen away from his county side so dramatically has much ground to recover.

Panesar's move to Essex had the feel of being a last chance. After getting divorced in 2012, he had a series of difficulties at Sussex. Famously, in August 2013, he was arrested and fined £90 for being drunk and disorderly after urinating over bouncers outside a nightclub in Brighton just after 4am. Panesar released a statement offering an "unreserved apology" for his behaviour, and soon moved to Essex, initially on loan, before joining on a two-year contract ahead of 2014.

He has certainly provided illustrations of his class at Essex. Against Glamorgan at Swansea last August, Panesar took 11-168 in 73 overs in the match. In total, he took 46 first-class wickets at 24.86 apiece last year.

Yet Essex have grown frustrated with Panesar in spite of these impressive numbers. He was dropped for poor time keeping last season, and there have complaints about his unpredictable attitude.

Even in Division Two of the Championship, his consistently poor batting and fielding means Panesar can pose problems for the balance of the side. He does not fit into Essex's limited overs plans, and has played only three List A or T20 games since joining the club. If Essex do not renew his contract, it might prove a struggle for Panesar to find a fourth county of his career. Burns said that a new deal "depends, I imagine, on how the rest of the season goes."

As he tries to find his way back, Panesar is working closely with a personal development manager at the Professional Cricketers' Association. The PCA were not willing to disclose further details, although it is understood that Panesar's current issues are not alcohol related.

"One of our PDMs is working on personal development stuff with him. 81% of current pros are doing similar," said Jason Radcliffe, the Assistant Chief Executive of the PCA. "It wouldn't be right to discuss any of it."

"What they discuss is personal and private. The programme aims to enhance cricket whilst not distracting from it and tries to ensure that players are best prepared for life after cricket whenever that might be."

Recent events have come as a surprise to many who worked closely with Panesar earlier in his career. Dave Parsooth, his former agent and a family friend, remembers Panesar as someone who "was quite strong and could handle himself" when he first broke into the England side in 2006.

"Everybody is a bit shellshocked as to the big downfall," Parsooth said. "He was good enough for England but I don't know about now - I can't tell."