Monty Panesar, the English spinner who tormented many a batsmen when he played for England has revealed how he tricked the Indian captain MS Dhoni – many times by pretending to not understand Hindi, while he speaks and understands Hindi and Punjabi quite well.
Although not playing now for England – but he wants to and he thinks there is a lot of cricket still left in him and he can make a valuable contribution should he get a chance to play again.
Speaking in a recent interaction with Times of India, Panesar recalled how Dhoni would often instruct his bowlers to bowl a certain way to get wickets but little did the ‘cool customer’ know that Monty knew and understood Hindi very well and thus was able to beat the intended merit in the bowl.
“I remember his tips to the bowlers, especially spinners from behind the stumps. Abhi thodi wide ball daalo. Abhi thoda seedha stumps pe rakho. Ye cross line khelne waala hai, seedha daalo. Ye deep mid-wicket pe chakka marega, thoda wide rakhna. (Bowl a little wide now. Now bowl straight on the stumps. He is going to play across the line, so bowl straight. He will try for a six over mid-wicket, so bowl a little wide)”, recalled Monty Panesar.
“I can speak Hindi and Punjabi to a great extent. MSD thought I didn’t understand. I heard everything, but I also acted like MSD, as if I didn’t hear anything. I heard and (then) acted as if I didn’t hear anything. But I knew everything,” Monty said.
“I am proud that I have played against him,” the former England bowler added.
Monty said Dhoni’s biggest strength was that “he was very good at reading other people, but people couldn’t read him. That was another strength. You will never be able to know what is going on in Dhoni’s mind when he is at the crease and India need 15 runs per over in the last three overs. And he gets it. How does he do it? That’s MSD’s secret.”
Monty notched up a career taking 167 Test wickets and a Wisden Cricketer of the year award.
Monty believes he still could be – a left-arm spinner of immense class and limitless charm. Monty’s first Test wicket was that of his idol the little master blaster Sachin Tendulkar in early 2006. And he later managed to persuade his idol to autograph the very ball that dismissed him.
The English tour of India in 2012 was the time when Monty was his absolute best and unplayable, particularly at Mumbai in the second Test. His height, pace and jagging turn combined was a lethal power to upstage the finest players of spin in the world. In the first innings he got rid of Virender Sehwag, Tendulkar, Virat Kohli, MS Dhoni and Ashwin. In the second, he claimed six more.
But post-Mumbai, he only played seven more Test matches. It was the troubles in his life off the field which brought his international career to a premature end. When not playing, Monty began to struggle and alcohol followed by a messy divorce took heavy toll on him. He played his last first-class match in 2016 at the age of 34.
Back in July, Monty told the media, “I feel like I’ve got unfinished business with cricket. I’m probably in better shape now than when I played because I’ve been working with a personal trainer. I’d love to play professionally again, so I’m definitely going to give it my best.”
Two years ago Monty Panesar wrote to all 18 counties offering to play for them, but there were no takers. It will take a miracle for Monty to get another chance at 38 plus. But then again… miracles do happen!