As the rain pelted down here yesterday the forgotten man of English cricket was in a contrastingly sunny mood. Monty Panesar is spending the winter in South Africa trying to rediscover some semblance of the talent that not so long ago propelled him to fame, fortune and a seemingly enduring international career.
Had there been any doubts about his unwanted present status they were dispelled this week when England summoned slow bowling cover for their depleted resources. It would have been easy to ask Panesar to join them because he is experienced and on the spot. Instead, James Tredwell was invited to fly from England and spend possibly as little as a week with the squad. With the first match of the one-day series abandoned yesterday and the weather not certain to improve before tomorrow's second match in Centurion, it may be less.
England's reasoning was not wholly convincing. They claimed to want Tredwell because his off-spin would turn the ball away from South Africa's left handers while Panesar's left arm spin would turn it in.
But then again Panesar would turn it away from the right handers. He tried with some cheeriness to put a brave face on what must have come as another snub. "Coming here is the start of the process to get back in the England team," he said. "I don't feel I have been forgotten. I have an individual responsibility which I must take on my shoulders and that's why I've come here for three months with the Highveld Lions."
Another part of the process was completed earlier this week when he left Northamptonshire, his first county, for Sussex. But it will be a long road back. After playing in the first Test of the Ashes last summer – where his defiant part in a last-wicket stand with James Anderson could be said to have saved both match and series – Panesar was dropped. He then endured a dire season, with 18 championship wickets at almost 60 runs each, at the end of which he lost his central contract.
This was uncharted territory for Panesar who had taken so easily to Test cricket. His search for answers, to try to find essential variations, proved hopeless.
"I tried to please everyone," he said. "I got caught in a cycle, instead of just valuing a few people, or one person, and working on a progressive path." Panesar may be back but England seem to have indicated that it will not be yet awhile.Reuse content