SYDNEY: Monty Panesar is back in international cricket. Curiously, though, the 34-year-old left-arm spinner is returning not as a player but as a coach, and not for England but for Australia, who have recruited him as a consultant ahead of their forthcoming Test tour of India. Panesar has been playing grade cricket in Sydney this winter as he attempts to secure a county deal for the 2017 season. He has not played for England since the disastrous Ashes tour of 2013-14, but Cricket Australia performance manager Pat Howard was intrigued by his success in India in 2012-13, where he took 17 wickets in a famous 2-1 series victory. It remains the last time India have been beaten in a home Test series, and as Australia prepare to tour a country where they were whitewashed 4-0 on their last visit, Howard sought out Panesar’s expertise. Initially, he will travel to Cricket’s Australia’s centre of excellence in Brisbane to work with left-arm spinner Steve O’Keefe and opening batsman Matt Renshaw on a short-term basis.
Since 2013-14 Panesar drifted out of the game amid a series of injury, disciplinary and personal problems. He takes medication to deal with his long-standing mental health issues, and despite a brief return to first-class cricket for Northamptonshire last season, is at something of a crossroads in his career, having failed to make an impression at Essex and Sussex in recent years. But he has always refused to rule out the possibility of an international comeback, and after working on his fitness in the off-season and flying to Australia to get some matches under his belt, Panesar believes that working with Australia will help him back into the game. “While I’ve been out here, I’ve been helping the under-16s, the under-21s and also the grade team, so this is a good opportunity to work with international cricketers,” he told the BBC. “From a playing side, I’m trying to get my shoulder a lot stronger, trying to get fitter again.