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    Field Marshal Monty

    by Rohin on 2nd August, 2006 at 11:22 PM    

    Monty Panesar seems to be all over the place now. I’m sorry I couldn’t bring this to you sooner - but as all of you who have felt the bitter sting of studentdom end, I’m pretty shattered most of the time now that I’m a worker bee.

    ‘The Montster’ has not only garnered vast amounts of space in the sports press, with practically every broadsheet devoting inches to him this week, but he is to grace the cover of Esquire magazine.

    Of course Monty’s storming eight wicket match haul against Pakistan last weekend is a huge element in the sudden interest, but his cult following has been growing since he first debuted against India in March. From the very off, I can recall England fans enthusiastically cheering his frequent fielding gaffes instead of lambasting him.

    It’s hard to explain why everyone seemed so fond of him so soon, without conjuring the slightly offensive stereotype of the happy-go-lucky likeable Sikh. I can only speculate that the successful and popular position Sikhs occupy in British society has contributed to how he has been greeted by the public at large. Of course, dismissing Tendulkar and Dravid on your debut, then jumping up and down with glee must’ve helped endear him to the fans too.

    Being a tweaker is also a major part of the equation. Spinners tend to become cult figures more frequently than the often too-serious quicks and batsmen. Think Warne, Harbhajan, Tufnell and of course Murali. Monty may well be the man to inherit the role of Phil Tufnell - liked by all, occasionally infuriating but sometimes brilliant.

    Many would now rank him as England’s best spinner, ahead of the likes of Giles, and the concurrence of his current form and the improvement to his all-round game, he looks assured of an England spot for the near future.

    But is the Monty mania simply due to his finger-spinning? The Times yesterday said:

    England’s first Sikh cricketer has a profile that sponsors and marketing companies crave: young, charismatic, successful — and Asian. [Link]

    Indeed, it is his Asian identity which has proved his marketing point. Whilst British Asian players are far from thin on the ground, Monty is the first Sikh in the national side (although IndiaTimes reckon he plays for India). High profile Asian players in the past, such as captain Nasser Hussain or Mark Ramprakash, have been role models for British Asian hopefuls for years.

    Whilst it is a crude measure, the reason their ‘Asianness’ was never as central an issue as it is in coverage of Monty is simple. He looks more Asian.

    With a patka on his head, a generous beard, finger spine, an effortless change of pace and a beautiful looping flight, Monty is more than reminiscent of India’s young Sikh Turbanator, Harbhajan Singh - who has an immense fan base in and outside the Punjab.

    Other things do set Monty apart aside from the five Ks.

    Despite being a successful under-19 England cricketer, his transition to the senior squad was effectively hampered by him completing a university degree (education as first priority - Indian!) Nick Cook has described him as the hardest-working England cricketer he’s ever known (devout work ethic - Indian!)

    He does not get pissed with the boys (this is certainly in contrast to most British Asian cricketers) and he is softly-spoken and quiet off the pitch. Now bookies have slashed the odds on him being Sports Personality of the Year to 10-1.

    Next up is Headingley, notorious for being unkind to spinners.
    Much will depend on Fletcher’s decision as to whether to pick Panesar for the Ashes. He remains of the opinion that Monty is not definite due to his poor all-round game but heavyweights like Botham have put their support in Monty, insisting he can help win the series, harking back to Derek Underwood.

    The more I think about desis in English cricket, the more I realise why Monty has the potential to be a superstar. Ramps and Hussain were both mixed race and made little mention of their Indian heritage. Min Patel and Aftab Habib didn’t make much of an impact at Test level and England’s other Asian players tend to be one-dayers like Kabir Ali (dropped) or Vik Solanki.

    Monty is all these variables gone right. He is very good and very Asian, just what the sponsors seem to want. No doubt what many people want, if only to tout as a symbol of Britain’s multicultural unity. Whatever, as long as we stuff Pakistan again. Now how’s that for unity?

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    Filed in: Culture, Sports

    20 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. faddy — on 2nd August, 2006 at 11:47 PM  

      Good Blog.. Either way Monty is in a class of his own.. hes brilliant.. and thats coming from a hardcore Paki fan :(

    2. Sunny — on 2nd August, 2006 at 11:56 PM  

      I think there’s an element of ‘Isn’t it great these Asian kids are finally accepting this as their country’?

      As if we’d bloody run off to India to play for them at the first opportunity. Heh. It’s the same hoo-haa that greeted Amir Khan, and although I’m proud of both of them, I do worry about bigging them up too much. What goes up….

    3. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 3rd August, 2006 at 12:02 AM  

      Actually Sunny I think that it is the other way around.

      A good thing it is to.


    4. Rohin — on 3rd August, 2006 at 12:11 AM  

      Kind of Sunny. Cricket is bit unique in that there are quite a few Asian players so I don’t think the ‘Isn’t it great he’s embraced the country’ sentiment is that relevant here. I think it was for Amir Khan because he represented the people perceived to be less British - northern Pakistani Muslims.

      Cricket audiences in the UK tend to be more clued up about the differences between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus and I don’t think a Muslim spinner would’ve been taken to in such a way. I felt the ‘love’ for Amir Khan was far more forced by the wider public than it is for Monty. People felt the necessity to forcefully say ‘Amir Khan is fantastic, let’s cheer him on, what a good role model, how wonderful.’

    5. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 3rd August, 2006 at 12:23 AM  

      C’mon! Amir Khan is the MAN! The boy done good! He’s quick, he’s fast, I think he is great.

      Of course if he starts banging on about how great his religion is all the time I’ll go off him like a stone.

      Believe me, its not an Islam thing, its a “don’t trust religous nuts” thing.


    6. Leon — on 3rd August, 2006 at 12:36 AM  

      Oh christ it’s cricket! Growing up with a West Indian father meant learning to be baffled and annoyed by it’s presence in my life at every turn. Someone save me from this mind numbingly non interesting ’sport’!:P

    7. Sunny — on 3rd August, 2006 at 2:32 AM  

      I dunno Rohin, I think everyone went mad over Amir Khan just naturally. The boy is talented and down to earth. I’m just worried he won’t stay that way and then we’ll have to look the other way and quietly mutter to ourselves.

      You my have a point about different audiences… but then Monty is the first proper British Asian, as you said above, which is why the enthusiasm may be so great. Oh I don’t know… I’m just rambling here dammit.

    8. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 3rd August, 2006 at 7:18 AM  

      Cricket Sucks.


    9. Vikrant — on 3rd August, 2006 at 9:23 AM  

      No it doesnt Bikki… its high time Yanks play some real sports. Having Canada in NHL doesnt exactly make it a world championship!

    10. Neil — on 3rd August, 2006 at 9:35 AM  

      Its brilliant to see someone like Monty accepted and becoming integral to the English team. The fact that he is clearly Asian (unlike Hussain who tried to hide it) and sites Bishen Bedi and Tendulkar as his heroes is brilliant for young Asians here who can find staying true to their roots and reaching the top is not incompatible.

      If he doesn’t get first spinners role in the Ashes then frankly Duncan Fletcher is an idiot ! He is superior to Giles as a bowler in every way and his batting really isent that bad, whilst the fielding is improving.

    11. Jagdeep — on 3rd August, 2006 at 11:07 AM  

      As far as stereotypes go, being happy-so-lucky, outgoing and fun to be with is not so bad!

    12. Jagdeep — on 3rd August, 2006 at 11:14 AM  

      The real storm will break when a Sikh or Asian plays for England in football. Sadly, I don’t see it happening for at least another generation (and thats being optimistic) :-(

      There are a few Punjabi players in the youth teams of Midlands clubs. All we need is one to break through and it will be phenomenal in terms of impact.

    13. Roger — on 3rd August, 2006 at 11:54 AM  

      ‘Isn’t it great he’s embraced the country’
      Oddly enough it used to go the other way for West Indian players: Gordon Greenidge- and other players- was brought up in Britain and Clive Lloyd became a British citizen the day after he retired as cpatain of the West Indies.

    14. Neil — on 3rd August, 2006 at 12:08 PM  

      I dont understand waht they mean by ‘embraced this country’ ?! He was born in Luton and brought up here, he wasn’t likely to go and play for India (Pieterson style) was he ?? The same goes for any British-Asian player.

    15. Nush — on 3rd August, 2006 at 2:22 PM  

      I think Monty is a great role model for everyone!

      I still think he needs to work on his fielding though!


    16. Sid — on 3rd August, 2006 at 2:34 PM  

      I like his sports-turban.

    17. Jagdeep — on 3rd August, 2006 at 2:58 PM  

      It’s called a patka! It’s a bandana that Sikhs wear in informal/sports situations….or when you go to the gurudwara to cover your head if you don’t already wear a turban…..

    18. Vikram — on 3rd August, 2006 at 4:32 PM  

      >>>No it doesnt Bikki… its high time Yanks play some real sports. Having Canada in NHL doesnt exactly make it a world championship!

      Major League Baseball - America’s premier baseball league - introduced a world cup this year called the World Baseball Classic - and the US team didn’t even make the finals. Japan defeated Cuba for the title.

      FIBA’s World Basketball Championship is set for the end of this month, and I bet the US wont win there either. Last time around, the US finished 6th.

    19. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 3rd August, 2006 at 10:58 PM  


      What the hell are you smoking?

      “FIBA’s World Basketball Championship is set for the end of this month, and I bet the US wont win there either. Last time around, the US finished 6th.”

      I dont know anything about FIBA but what was on the time when they finished 6th?

    20. Jai Hind! — on 11th August, 2006 at 4:15 PM  

      Traitors to the Indian nation! Jai Hind!

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