An email conversation with Monty Panesar: 'I never dreamed of Tendulkar as my first wicket in Test cricket'

On touring India as first Sikh to play for England; Test ambition of beating Steve Harmison at darts; Pleasantly surprised by support from Indian fans; Resisting a beer after Test victory in Bombay
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The Independent Online

With the County Championship season now well under way what are your realistic hopes for Northamptonshire? Hopefully we will push for promotion, but it could be difficult with only two going up and two going down this season, unlike in previous seasons when three have gone up and three down.

Who will Northants be looking at to provide the bulk of their runs this season? David Sales, Usman Afzaal and Bilal Shafayat are all great talents with the bat. Hopefully they can hit the bulk of our runs.

Who, besides yourself, will be vital to bowling sides out for Northamptonshire? Jason Brown [the right-arm off-spinner] will be key, we bowl well as a unit.

How proud were you to play for England in India? It has always been my ambition to play for England and so I was extremely proud.

Do you expect to be playing for England against Sri Lanka at Lord's on Thursday? Well, that depends on three factors: first, how I am bowling; second, the balance of the team; and third, the condition of the pitch as in, will it be spin-friendly?

Is Andrew Flintoff the best captain you have played under? Yeah. He was the first captain I played under when playing for England.

You seem fairly ambivalent about your religion. Was it an honour to be the first Sikh to play for England? Do you see yourself as a role model? It was an honour to be the first Sikh to play for England - but I am not the first Asian cricketer to play for England, and there are others who achieved far more than me. If people see me as a role model, then that's great for the game.

Did you play Steve Harmison at darts in India? Apparently he's pretty good. I played him but have never beaten him - but hopefully I will one day!

Describe the feeling when you got Sachin Tendulkar as your first Test wicket. It was beyond my imagination - I never dreamed of taking his wicket as my first Test wicket.

What happened with that dropped catch in the final Test off Mahendra Singh Dhoni? It was a misjudgment from me - it was all forgotten when I took the second catch moments later.

Are you a strict adherent to the tenets of Sikhism? Did you have a beer after the final-Test victory in Bombay? I did socialise with my team-mates, but I just had soft drinks and enjoyed the moment with them.

Were your grandparents, who live in Punjab, happy the series was drawn 1-1? They were happy that I was playing - and happy that India didn't win the series!

Who has been the biggest influence on your career? There have been a few people at Northants and when I was at Bedfordshire. I don't want to miss anyone out as they have all been great to me, but the biggest influence on me was probably my first coach, Hitu Naik, when I was 10.

Are the Northants pitches prepared to suit your spin? It is true the wickets turn at Northants, especially at the end of the season.

Did you mix with the Indian players much during the Test series? Whenever you get the chance it is good to talk to them and learn something from them.

The Indian crowds took you to their hearts, how surprised were you by that? It was a pleasant surprise. Obviously, they follow cricket like a religion. It's great to visit somewhere that cricket is followed so passionately.

You enjoy five-a-side football with your mates. Are you a goalscorer, midfielder or defender? And who do you support? Goalscorer! I support Luton Town, but I also try to follow Arsenal as they play such entertaining football.

Have you developed a mystery ball? I'm working on it!

Looking back, which wicket pleases you more, Tendulkar's or the great ball that got Rahul Dravid? It's not easy to get great wickets so they're all important to me.

On holiday are you a culture vulture, adrenalin junkie or beach bum? A bit of everything, but an adrenalin junkie first, I guess.

What are you reading at the moment? Nothing. I'm too busy playing for Northants - and, hopefully, England.

Where will you be next winter? Hopefully with the England team. If not, I will be working on my game.

Will England retain the Ashes? Yes, because we have got the best seam attack in the world.

What is the most extravagant thing you have bought? A gold chain but I hardly ever wear it!

Attachment: The Monty Panesar lowdown

* Full name Mudhsuden Singh Panesar.

* 1982 Born 25 April in Luton. Initial sporting interests are badminton, tennis and snooker, accompanied by hopes of becoming a pilot, but soon followed his father into local cricket.

* 1999 Took 5 for 114 from 42 overs for Northamptonshire in a second XI fixture against Surrey.

* 2000 Featured in the England Under-19s side against Sri Lanka.

* 2001 Made his first-class debut for Northamptonshire. Earned the Denis Compton Award for the most promising young player. Further performances were limited due to commitments as a student at Loughborough University.

* 2004 Played for the MCC and the Loughborough University Centre of Cricket Excellence, and was to become the first graduate of the centres of excellence to represent England.

* 2005 Attended the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide in order to address suggested flaws in his batting and fielding. The following season he claimed 46 County Championship wickets at an average of 21.54.

* 2006 Selected for the England tour of India and makes debut in first Test in Nagpur. Retained his place for the remainder of the three-match series, finishing with figures of 5 for 312.

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