The veteran England spinner, Monty Panesar, who gave the cricket fans countless cricket memories to cherish during his playing days, was again seen on the cricket field during the Road Safety World Series. He got on a call with SportsAmaze for an exclusive interview, chatting about his experience while playing in the tournament and the things that he would like to be changed in international cricket, amongst many other things.
Here are the excerpts:
How does it feel like to be on the field again and playing with some of your former teammates?
It was amazing to be involved with all the players I have played with. It makes it a lot easier, to be honest. Playing together, everyone is really enjoying themselves.
How have the conditions changed in India since the last time you came here to play cricket?
I think the pitches are probably turning a bit more I would say, which you know is not a bad thing. Every team you know wants home advantage. The stadiums are better. The one thing that I have seen is that the infrastructure of the stadiums, the whole kind of brand of cricket has just gone up a notch. That’s probably because the IPL keeps getting better and more new stadiums are being built around India. India’s economy itself is growing.
The coverage of cricket is growing. Women’s cricket on channels, along with domestic cricket which is always on, along with international cricket, which helps to promote the sport really well here.
How the preparation is different in a tournament like the Road Safety World Series different from that of an international match and what impact do these games have on the viewers?
I think there are parts of the match, like the one which we played against India. 50 for 5 you’re gonna think the game is over. I think we should have won that, but it was an amazing game of cricket and it really sorts of highlights why people love cricket here and also the standard of the game here, is a lot higher. So it is just amazing playing against and in India. We are all loving being here and playing against India.
Which Indian batsmen, while playing international cricket have you enjoyed taking the wicket of?
It is an obvious choice. It is Sachin Tendulkar. He has been absolutely brilliant and getting his wicket has been absolutely fantastic. There has been times where we need a crucial wicket and getting that has been great but, I think it’s probably the crowd, how they love the game of cricket and the culture and how they love watching and playing cricket makes it special.
Have there been any incidents when there was banter or sledging happening between players when you were playing against India? How is the experience like overall?
There were not many sledges. It was about their status. They have a huge stature in this country and you only realise how big they (Indian Cricketers) are when you witness and see it for yourself. You know I think sometimes they need to maintain their own space. They need their own privacy and space. In England we take it for granted, we walk down the street. But, here you can see how they can’t do that and not have that freedom.
There was a lot of controversy around the pitches in the recent India vs England Test series. Your thoughts?
From a cricket enthusiast’s point of view, you think what’s great for the game. The thing that is great for the game is 4-5 Test matches. Indian cricket also caters to Indian fans from a marketing perspective, an entertainment perspective. You know it like an own economy is itself. For the Indian fans, winning is more important. They don’t care about whether it’s the 2nd or the 3rd day or the 4th or the 5th day.
They don’t care about that side of things. I think, what’s so important for these fans which must be over 500 million watching a game or close to a billion watching a game, they just want to celebrate. They want to feel proud of their nation. They want to feel proud that we are Indian and the most important thing for them is to win. So, every time India wins, it makes them feel right that we are proud Indians and they can celebrate that.
I think that’s so important for Indian cricket. It’s like maybe in a football fan, every Saturday, you know from 3 o’clock to half-past 4, 90 minutes. I am an Arsenal fan now, and when they win I am in a great evening. But, for India, when they win, the whole week is great. It means so much to them. So, to be honest, turning pitches or no turning pitches. The end result (in India) needs to be India winning and that’s it and that’s what they care about.
In the cricket community, there has been a long going debate about the ‘Umpire’s call’ in DRS. What do you think about this whole matter?
I think you are bringing too much technology. I think there needs to be that level of umpires getting it right, umpires getting it wrong, a close call. These are all parts of the game. There was a Joe Root dismissal, which we thought oh this must be out, and it was a very close call. And there are times when they (the umpires) miss really easy ones. But, that adds to the brand of cricket. Some people are debating that the stumps were magnified by another 30 per cent that’s why there were so many balls hitting the stumps. But whatever the case is, it gets people talking about the game. Doesn’t it?
So, from a marketing perspective, an economic perspective, that’s what you need. You need people debating and talking about the game. It could be a subject that you know does not have any sort of relevance. But that’s what got people talking and that’s what it is. That’s how you get the game of cricket in this country and many other countries popular. We’re gonna have the 100 hundred again and people will be talking about that. So it’s great. That’s what you need. You need people talking about the game of cricket.
What is that one rule that you would want to see being removed or added to international cricket?
It’s a great question actually. I would like to see one white ball. I don’t want to see two. Because I think when there’s two, I don’t know. I kind of like that hard new ball people hit and accelerate and then they use the old one to reverse swing it. The softer ball is harder to hit later on. The bowlers get back in favour. I would like them to go back to just one ball.