Saturday, Jan 22, 2022
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India Tour Diary By Monty Panesar

For a British-Asian with roots in Punjab, playing in India is doubly special. It gets you out twice…as Bishan Bedi famously said of a stumping wicket I took!

India Tour Diary By Monty Panesar
India Tour Diary By Monty Panesar -

For a British-Asian cricketer who has parents or grandparents from India, a tour there is a special one. You realise cricket is a religion here—the passion, players worshipped like gods...you wonder how these players cope with pressure. I have to admire the likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Harbhajan Singh, Sourav Ganguly,  Rahul Dravid. My first experience of playing in India was during my Under-19 days and our team included the great James Anderson, Ian Bell and myself. India had Gautam Gambhir and Parthiv Patel. Gambhir was way above our league then; I remember he scored a double hundred. In India as part of the England team in 2006, I again played against Gambhir, then part of the India side. For me it was a reflection of how far I have developed as a cricketer. Rod Marsh was certainly right when he said to me, “You have deficiencies in some areas but could be a late developer”. Touring India has become easier over the years. In 2006, I was very ill with diarrhoea before a warm-up match. But I played it and when I got Suresh Raina out stumped, it elicited Bishan Bedi’s famous response: “Getting a batsman out stumped is like getting him out twice—once in the air and once off the pitch”.

Testing My Mettle

Slated to be the first Sikh to play for England, I was in the news around the build-up to the first Test in Nagpur. As a youngster, all I wanted was to play for England and become the best spinner in the world. When I took my first Test wicket, I didn’t celebrate it as a special occasion—I was in shock! Looking back at the Test now, I took the wickets of Sachin, Dravid and Mohammad Kaif—not a bad way to start a career. Test cricket is a special form of the game, and in India it takes stranger forms. I realised it when I dropped Dhoni in Mumbai and, to thousands of spectators, became a hero for a brief while. My interactions with legends of Indian cricket were special too. The modesty of Tendulkar and Dravid and the fighting spirit of Harbhajan and Kumble stood out for me.

Love Served On Red Soil
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