Monty Panesar: Most grounded sportsmen in the game monty

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The Independent Online

Monty Panesar may have taken an impressive 31 wickets in his first nine Test matches for England, but this hasn't affected the cricketer's modesty and quiet determination.

One of the most grounded sportsmen in the game, Mudhsuden Singh Panesar - to give Monty his proper moniker - hit the headlines when he became the first Sikh to play for the national side. Panesar says that he owes his self-discipline to his religion, which has taught him to stay focused and determined. Remaining true to his heritage, Panesar refuses to trim his long hair and beard and is a resolute vegetarian. But above all, the talented spin-bowler is dedicated to the game. The pleasure he gets from playing cricket is evident in his trademark leap for joy every time he takes a wicket.

Panesar was recently hailed as the best finger-spinner in the world by Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, but at the same time he has also been criticised for mistakes in his fielding and batting. However, in order to improve his all-round game, he has visited Darren Lehman's Academy to work specifically on these aspects. Panesar claims that his ability in these areas has improved dramatically since he linked up with the England XI.

When asked how he handles the tension of big matches so well, the Luton-born cricketer replies that he simply pretends that the game is completely unimportant, preferring to imagine he is taking part in a practice match in order to reduce the pressure.

Before being called up for the England team, Panesar played for Marylebone, Loughborough University - where he gained a BSc in computer management - and Northamptonshire. Despite being raised in Bedfordshire, he has always embraced his Asian roots, as his parents moved from India in the Seventies.

His talent on the cricket field is not the only thing he should be known for, however. Panesar will be visiting India in the autumn, just as he did last year, to do voluntary work including repairing temples and helping with the harvest. It's humbling that such a huge star chooses to spend his time away from the sport doing volunteer work while other sportsmen are more likely to be on holiday in expensive villas.

Panesar holds many cricket players in high esteem, but singles out both Phil Tufnell and Nasser Hussain, the Chennai-born Indian player who captained England, as two major influences on his career to date.

The rising star's respect for his opponents and modesty despite his success, show that the down-to-earth Sikh's star looks set to shine even brighter. Watch this space...