Panesar eager to set the record straight
While England's cricketers used their day off to hare around Cape Town on roaring Harley Davidsons, England's forgotten spinner Monty Panesar has been trying to make amends with his former employers Northants, after ruffling a few feathers with comments he made last weekend.
Monty is in Johannesburg where he's playing for the South Africa domestic side Highveld Lions, with a view to getting his career back on track. A bid to win back his England place is also behind his recent move from Northamptonshire to Sussex.
Panesar told reporters last week: "I felt Northants were no longer working with me to become an England player. I loved playing for Northants. I regarded it as my home club but I had to go to where I was most wanted."
He now insists he was misunderstood, that he had no intention of criticising the club and is adamant his relationship with Northants has not soured since signing a three-year deal with Sussex. In a flurry of introspection he also told me he believed it was his fault - if he was still performing for England, none of this would have happened.
Monty pictured with Highveld Lions assistant coach Lawrence Mahatlane during a match in Potchefstroom
When we spoke on the phone, an animated Monty was anxious to smooth over a few things and stress how much his home club means to him.
"The pitch changed at Wantage Road and didn't suit my style. It used to be a turning track but it's become more seamer-orientated. The way the pitch has changed meant it was going to be better for my cricket to move somewhere else."
"It was portrayed that Northants didn't help me with my England career, but they did. I think for whatever reason things have been written to create a difference between me and Northants. It's my home club. Northants have done an awful lot for me and have always been really supportive."
Northants coach David Capel has a great deal of affection for Panesar, having worked closely with him through the ranks over the last 10 years, and was surprised by Monty's initial quotes, thinking it was out of character, and that some things were inaccurate.
Here's what Capel had to say:
"It was a little disappointing to read the comments initially, but I know now that Monty tried to contact me on Friday night to say he felt there might be some quotes coming out that he was worried about. Northants have never been anything other than supportive of Monty's England career and throughout all stages of his move to Sussex there's never been anything other than harmony between us.
"In fact all communication between Monty and the club and Monty and the management has been completely amicable. As far as we are concerned he is still part of the Northants family and he has many friends and admirers. Everyone at the club still supports him and wishes him well for the future."
It is widely understood that once Panesar lost his ECB central contract, it was going to be difficult for Northants to afford his wages. Panesar's deal with Sussex is thought to be worth in the region of £125,000, but he insists the move is about helping his game.
"I had another year on my contract but it was going to become more difficult to accommodate two spinners in me and Nicky Boje (another slow left-arm bowler) in all the Championship matches.
"He's captain so you couldn't really leave him out. Northants always accommodated me when I came back from England duty and then wasn't in the England squad. The media have made it sound like there was conflict but it was an amicable and mutual decision when I sat down with the club's management.
"If I was still performing I wouldn't have left Northants because I would still have been playing for England and these things wouldn't have come up. It's all down to me. I haven't performed for England. It's my fault."
Panesar will still face competition on the south coast though, where Sussex boast promising leg-spinner Will Beer, as well as off-spinner Ollie Rayner.
It's clear that Monty regrets causing a stir with Northants, who continued to play him last season, despite taking just 18 wickets in 13 Championship matches. He's even donated £10,000 to the club as a way of saying thank you.
With an eye to the future, he says he's now enjoying the responsibility of being an overseas player with the Highveld Lions, and (although it's hard to believe it) insists he wasn't thinking about England's tour when Graeme Swann got injured and off spinner James Tredwell was brought in ahead of Panesar as cover.
In a moment that sounds more Bishan Singh Bedi than Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, he says: "If I focus on the future I'm diluting the present. If I focus on the present and on what I'm doing here, the future will take care of itself."
His fervent hope is that the future will one day involve playing in an England shirt again.