The Lowdown

Weaving his way in?

Jenny Thompson brings you the lowdown on Monty Panesar

Jenny Roesler
Jenny Thompson

Monty Panesar - dedication's what you need .... © Getty Images
"Exceptionally focused." "Willing to know more." "Just so dedicated." Everyone who speaks about the left-arm orthodox spinner Monty Panesar talks of his commitment to cricket, his determination to succeed.
All those hours of extra practice he puts in on top of his normal hours - he has been known to come back from academy tours and work even harder - not to mention his studies at Loughborough, may be just about to pay off. After just 28 first-class matches, Panesar is the leading candidate to take England's mystery spinner spot for the tour to India in February.
So what has he done to warrant such favour, ahead of Alex Loudon - who had some England experience in Pakistan and has Harbhajan Singh among his admirers - Gary Keedy and Ian Blackwell? After all, he has not even played a full season as a professional cricketer yet, having just completed his degree.
Well, after not playing for Northants' first team at all in 2004, Panesar bounced back with a vengeance last season, averaging 21.54 with the ball in the Championship, with a best of 7 for 181. He is rated as a spinner who can take wickets as well as keep the run-rate down; he has an economy rate of 2.89 in first-class cricket.
His batting and fielding are no great shakes - or, rather, they weren't. Unsurprisingly he has also worked on these aspects of his game, in a bid to make himself into the full Monty. Northamptonshire sent him off to the Darren Lehmann Academy this winter for that very purpose, where he had one-to-one batting sessions with the man himself.
All this focussing is one thing, but a man has to relax. In his spare time he lists as his interests snooker, badminton, music, cars - and also wildlife. Intriguing stuff.
1998 - Minor counties cricket for Bedfordshire aged 16
1999 - Plays first match for Northants 2nd XI
2000-2001 - Represents England Under-19
2001 - Moves into Northants' first team - and alternates between them and the 2nds - while at Loughborough University, plays for British Universities, too
2003 - Tours Sri Lanka with the ECB Academy
2004 - Plays exclusively for Northants 2nd XI - no first-team action
2005 - Back in the first team and for the second half of the season
September 2005 - Heads to the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide
Current form
A fine season in 2005, where he took 46 Championship wickets at 21.54, was followed by a stint at the Darren Lehmann Academy. He took four wickets in his first outing for Glenelg District CC.

'It has always been my dream to play for England' © Getty Images
What he says
"It has always been my dream to play for England. And it would be great to be the first Sikh to play for England, it wouldn't be a burden at all, I just want to play for England. There have been a lot of nice things said about me, which is great, but we will just have to wait and see what happens."
What they say about him
1- Northants coach Kepler Wessels, who led calls for his England selection

"If England want to compete on the spinning front they have to select him [for India]. He is a player of immense ability and I was surprised he wasn't selected to go to Pakistan. On form, towards the latter part of the last season, he was definitely the best spinner in the country.
"He's a very tall spinner and does turn the ball more than most. He's very aggressive, gets good players out, gets good bounce and good turn. And that puts him aside from some of the other spinners in the country."
2 - Bishan Bedi
"He is a good student of the game, who wants to learn and work hard. I like his quiet humility and willingness to know more of the craft. If handled properly he could be the long-term solution for England."
Did you know ... ?
It was his very long fingers which prompted the switch from seam to spin. Paul Taylor, the ex-Northants pace bowler, gave him this advice when he coached him at school.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo