Get a proper job? Not after snaring Tendulkar on your England debut
Monty Panesar's Indian grandfather was against his cricket career, yet, as he tells Richard Edmondson in New Delhi, will be proudly watching his grandson in Mohali today
Thursday 09 March 2006
A little old man will be among the many who will watch Monty Panesar playing cricket live for the first time when the second Test starts in Mohali this morning. What makes 78-year-old Hari Singh unique is that Monty is his grandson. "A beautiful boy," he says, "and maybe now he doesn't need a job."
Notwithstanding his flamboyant jig at Nagpur after a debut dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar, it is easy to see why Panesar does not regularly do flash. He was born in Luton, while his ancestors come from Ludhiana, around 200 miles north-east of Delhi, an industrial city where flattery extends no further than referring to itself as "the Manchester of the East".
You travel over the numerous dried-up choes (rivulets) to the Friends Colony district of Ludhiana to hear the story of the young Monty. Behind a long, dusty parade of shops in a whitewashed house, Hari Singh tells you this is where Monty used to hone his skills bouncing a rubber ball against the wall.
"Even when I saw him for the first time [at the age of five] he looked like a sportsman," Hari tells you over barfi (fudge) and a glass of cola. "His hands and legs were strong and he had an athletic figure."
The grandfather can lay little claim to his relative's success. Unlike the vast majority of Indians, he did not even like cricket. Where he will receive credit is in application. Hari Singh worked for 30 years on India's railways and would rather like his grandson to do the same.
"When he first started playing cricket I told him to stop," he said. "If he wanted to do something it must be work. But he did not agree. He said his future was in cricket. But he said if he was not selected he would go for the work. This was five months ago. After he completed graduation I told him, 'Better you search for a job and start working. Not cricket.' But now I'm very happy."
Hari has been to Luton to visit his grandson but even then he did not get to see much of him. "Early in the morning, at five o'clock, he would be gone practising and he did not come back until late in the evening," he said. "All my family work hard. I would describe Monty as hard-working and interested [in many things], with a creative mind. All he worries about is the game of cricket. He is a good-natured person, but very strong inside."
There will be no crisis of national conscience today. Panesar is very much welded to England. "I will not be nervous because I pray to God that he plays very well," Hari says. "There will be internal happiness. All other Indians will be happy to see Monty too.
"The Indians just see Monty playing cricket. They do not mind who he plays for as long as they see him being famous. I don't care who he plays for as long as he plays very well. I don't care who wins.
"But he is different," Hari adds. He doesn't like much coming to India. I don't know why. I think he prefers England."
Hari Singh also hopes there is a better view of his grandson in action today. While he was watching the first Test, that Indian speciality,a power failure, cut in at a vital moment.
"I was excited about Monty's first wicket because Sachin Tendulkar is the best batsman," he says. "And he was out on Monty's debut match. That is a sign he is a success.
"But when I was watching the match the electricity was discontinued. When Monty got the wicket I didn't know. My son, working in New Zealand, had to call me. He said Monty took a wicket. Sachin Tendulkar."
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