Panesar targets England recall
Spinner Monty Panesar insists he has the 'hunger' and 'passion' necessary to reclaim his place in the England Test team.
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The 31-year-old left-armer appeared to be in the international wilderness when he was fined for urinating in public last August in Brighton and was subsequently sacked by County Championship side Sussex.
However, the shock retirement of Graeme Swann following the third Ashes Test against Australia in Perth, back in December, appeared to have opened the door once more for the return of fans' favourite Panesar, who has taken 166 wickets in 49 Tests.
But he was given only 16.5 overs in the fourth Boxing Day Test in Melbourne, picking up just one consolation wicket, as Australia romped to an eight-wicket victory inside four days.
It didn't get better for Panesar who then suffered a calf strain in training and missed the fifth and final Test in Sydney where he was replaced by Durham rookie Scott Borthwick.
With England seemingly still no nearer to naming a successor for head coach Andy Flower, Panesar now faces an anxious wait to see if he will be favoured by the new regime.
But he insists his first focus is to rediscover his best form and play well for new county Essex, after spending the winter playing grade cricket for Western Suburbs in Sydney.
"I have a great passion for bowling and more importantly I love playing for England and want to be part of English cricket," Panesar told sportinglife.com in Abu Dhabi, where he was playing for the MCC against Durham in the annual Champion County match.
"But first I have to put the hard work in and hopefully the opportunity will come ... and once again the wicket celebrations for England will return.
"However, England is on the back-burner for now. My first focus is to put in some strong performances for Essex and try and bowl well - like where my bowling used to be.
"If or when the England opportunity presents itself then I'm ready to grab it. I'm hungry to get back in the England team and very determined to play more Test matches.
"Playing in Australia was good for me. It allowed me to focus on fitness and my bowling - now I feel like all areas of my game are in good order.
"Mentally I'm in a good place and my bowling and all parts of my other game are going in the right direction so I'm raring to go - I've still got loads of enthusiasm, passion and determination to succeed.
"My first aim is to bowl well for Essex - if I can then I'm giving myself a chance with England."
Panesar was part of a strong MCC side that defeated county champions Durham by six wickets in Abu Dhabi last week, the spinner picking up an impressive five for 63 in the first innings.
"It's always nice to get quite a few overs out there early season and the ball was coming out well for me," said Panesar.
"To be in Abu Dhabi is nice preparation before I go back and play for Essex - but it is also a privilege and an honour to play for the MCC."
For the fifth year running, the teams trialled a pink ball in the match which was played in day-night conditions under the floodlights at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium.
The MCC hope that eventually Test matches can be played under this format.
"The pink ball is very similar to the white ball that is used in one-day cricket and both are the Kookaburra brand," said Panesar.
"There's a big seam and it holds its shape quite well. Day/night makes it interesting tactically as to how you use your bowlers when the lights come on.
"When it's cooler you can get the seamers involved, when it's 30 degrees you can use the spinners. The ball held up quite nicely for most of the 80 overs so that's a good sign.
"There is a point when the sun is going down and the lights are coming on when it's harder to see, but once the lights are on full it's very enjoyable.
"It definitely has potential, certainly in countries when that last session would not be too cold for the spectators to enjoy - the likes of Australia, West Indies or the sub-continent. One day we might see day-night Test cricket."