Monty Panesar is eyeing an England recall – despite currently being without a county for next season.
The 34-year-old has spent this winter playing grade cricket in Sydney with the Cambelltown Camden Ghosts, while also training with Big Bash side, Sydney Thunder.
He has also now been drafted in by Australia to help with their preparations for their tour of India next month.
It’s a while since Panesar received a similar call-up by his home country, with his most recent Test appearance coming as far back as December 2013 when Australia trounced England in Melbourne.
But after a string of controversies and a disappointing return to the county game with Northants in 2016, the left-armer is hoping the new year has brought with it a change of fortune – and he’s even been hitting the airwaves.
“I’m trying to get myself fit again and trying to make sure that my body can sustain 90 overs a day,” he told The Cricket Paper. “I’ve been bowling some good spells but first and foremost I need to be in the right shape to get myself a county.
“I’ve been speaking to Northants and my agent has sent out a few letters – we’ll wait and see what response we got.
“I probably came back a little bit too early last season. I’ve had bad luck with my rehab on my shoulder. A shoulder injury is always a difficult one but it has been good here – I’ve been working with Errol Alcott, who was Steve Waugh’s physio and the Australian team’s physio.
“The club have provided a physio, too, so everything is going in the right direction.”
Only wickets, of course, will earn Panesar a fresh county contract and potential hand him the unlikely but not impossible opportunity to don the Three Lions again.
Panesar took 5-85 in three Championship outings for Northants last season. It was hardly the return he was looking for after re-joining the county at the start of the summer. In an interview with the BBC shortly after his comeback, Panesar revealed his struggles with anxiety and paranoia which have blighted his career recently.
His time Down Under, however, appears to have reignited Panesar’s passion for the sport and instead of dwelling on the past, he’s now intent on looking to the future.
“I just wanted to do as much as I could out here,” he said. “I’m coaching the Campbelltown U16 and U21 sides but I’m also running the practice sessions for the first team in the middle as well. I’ve also got my own morning radio show and am doing some after-dinner speaking, too, so I’m really broadening my experience. It’s all going well.”
It was hard for English cricket followers to not wonder what might have been when England’s bowling attack was being torn to shreds by India’s batting earlier this winter. Not too long ago, Panesar and Graeme Swann were spinning England to their first victory on Indian soil in 27 years.
That, though, is a distant memory for a spinner who hasn’t played a Test for his country since the Boxing Day clash against Australia at the MCG in 2013. Still without a county contract for the forthcoming season, an England recall still looks some way off.
“If you’ve got that passion to play then you keep going – and that’s what I’m doing,” he said. “You just have to keep plugging away. I’m still only 34 and I have to keep the faith.
“I have to keep the training going and stay motivated. Once you stop doing your cricket skills and your training drills because you lack motivation then that’s when you know enough is enough.
“I’ve still got that passion and working with Sydney Thunder has given me a great feeling again. I still back myself and I’d love to play for England again because I miss playing Tests.”
At the moment, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali are the men in possession and are likely to remain so going into the Test match summer.
And despite their 4-0 drubbing at Indian hands in the Test series, Panesar believes the experience gained by the pair will have been invaluable.
“Bowling in India is as tough as it gets,” he said. “We got everything right back in 2012 but it’s all about having the right combinations. I thought they both bowled really well and they’ll be better bowlers for what happened. They’re relatively young and learning all the time.”
Panesar himself has been handed some harsh lessons in recent years but after a winter Down Under his star might be about to rise again.
This article originally appeared in The Cricket Paper on Friday 20th January. Subscribe to The Cricket Paper here.