England spinner Monty Panesar is ready to prove he deserves to be ranked in the world’s top 10 bowlers by reproducing his Nagpur heroics against India this summer.
Panesar made his Test debut in the Indian city in May 2006 and marked the occasion by trapping the great Sachin Tendulkar lbw for his first Test wicket.
Later in the same innings Panesar produced an unplayable delivery to bowl Mohammad Kaif for 91 and then claimed Rahul Dravid.
Since that day, Panesar has claimed six five-wicket hauls in Test cricket and rocketed up the International Cricket Council rankings to sixth in the world.
Panesar believes he is still some way off from being the finished article – but he is relishing the chance to test himself once more against India’s formidable batting line-up.
He said: “I don’t feel like I am a top 10 bowler, I still feel like a baby compared to other spinners out there. I have got a lot to learn.
“India have such an experienced batting line-up who have dominated world-class spinners. I will probably just gain a lot by playing against them and learning about the way they play spin.
“It is exciting to play against world class players. I want to make the most of the opportunities.”
One of Panesar’s most prized cricketing posession is the match ball Tendulkar signed for him after his debut.
As he handed the ball over, Tendulkar joked: “That will never happen again”.
Panesar holds ‘The Little Maestro’ in such high regard he still insists it was a “lucky” wicket.
But the other 64 on his Test record indicate otherwise – and England would love Panesar to prove Tendulkar wrong more than once as they look to build on their 3-0 Test series win over the West Indies.
“It was a great feeling to get my first Test wicket. Sachin was my childhood hero and somehow it hit the pad before the bat!” said Panesar.
“Then you start celebrating, running towards point then third man and fine leg!
“When you play against such great players, that is the impact they have on you. Your energy comes out and you are flying.
“It is one of my most treasured moments. That ball is precious and kept safely in my bedroom.”
Panesar has now retuned his mind from the one-day international series to the Test challenge that lies ahead against the Indians.
Kevin Pietersen today blamed England’s disappointing 2-1 limited overs series defeat to the West Indies on fatigue and demanded the authorities allow players time for a proper rest.
But Panesar would rather be playing. He claimed six for 65 as he bowled Northampton to victory against Gloucestershire yesterday and that, he believes, is the best possible preparation for a Test series.
“The four-day game for Northamptonshire gave me a good opportunity to get my head back onto Test cricket from the one-day internationals and bowling 50 overs helps make that transition,” he said.
“From a spinner’s point of view, we like to bowl a lot of overs and so from my point of view I like to play to keep my rhythm going.
“But you can udnerstand from a batsman and fast bowlers’ point of view that they need rest. I thoroughly agree with what Kevin Pietersen was saying. It certainly does affect players.”
After his match-winning exploits for Northants, Panesar was back on home soil on Thursday at Luton Town and Indian Cricket Club, filming an advert to help promote npower’s Big Ticket scheme.