Great Witchingham has pulled off a coup with the signing of former England star Monty Panesar for their 2024 East Anglian Premier League campaign.

Monty Panesar burst onto the scene for England in 2006 and quickly established himself as a national hero and fan favourite, with his black patka, languid action, wide eyes, eager (if a touch hapless) fielding, and generally effervescent mien on the field.

Though he shaped up briefly to be anointed the saviour of English spin bowling, that title eventually went to his old Northants colleague Graeme Swann, who had greater command of spin and dip on flat surfaces, and a nous that Panesar occasionally seemed to lack. The two combined in spectacular fashion in Mumbai in November 2012 for figures of 19 for 323, of which Panesar accounted for 11 wickets (including those of Sachin Tendulkar and MS Dhoni twice). He took 17 wickets in five innings in that series to Swann’s 20 in seven. Together they were the lynchpins of England 2-1 series win, the first time the team had won a series in India in 28 years. Earlier that year, Panesar had been nearly as prolific against Pakistan in the UAE, taking 14 wickets in the two Tests, but ending up on the wrong side of the 3-0 scoreline.

Panesar was picked for England Under-19s in 2000, and made his first-class debut a year later against Leicestershire, where he took 8 for 131. A fine 2005 season (46 County Championship wickets at under 22) took him into the side for England’s 2006 tour of India, where he made his Test debut in Nagpur, picking up his boyhood hero, Sachin Tendulkar, as his first Test wicket, and Rahul Dravid as his third. That summer, against a Pakistan line-up that included the likes of Inzamam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Yousuf and Younis Khan, Panesar spun England to a series win, taking 17 wickets in four Tests. Those performances took him ahead of Ashley Giles as England’s leading spinner of the time. In the Ashes thrashing of 2006-07, Panesar provided a silver lining for his side with eight wickets in the Perth Test.

He started the 2007 summer with 23 wickets in four Tests against West Indies, which brought a career-high No. 6 ICC ranking, but things began to go awry thereafter. He struggled in the following home series against India, and to a lesser extent away in Sri Lanka, lost his confidence, and was increasingly beset by critics who muttered about his lack of variety. Though he fared well in New Zealand, a tough 2008 summer, where Graeme Smith swept him to distraction in South Africa’s series-clinching win in Edgbaston, blunted Panesar’s perma-cheerful persona.

He was comprehensively outperformed by a resurgent Swann during his return to India in December 2008, and again in the Caribbean, where he lost his position as England’s No. 1 spinner. He only played one Test in the 2009 Ashes, in Cardiff, where he batted through to the close in a remarkable tenth-wicket stand with James Anderson, reaffirming his cult status.

By the end of 2009, though the future of Panesar’s international career looked doubtful, he took control on the first-class front, leaving his lifelong county Northamptonshire and moving to Sussex, where he rediscovered his vim and had a strong 2010 season, taking 52 wickets.

After the high of Mumbai 2012, there followed a deterioration in Panesar’s professional and personal life alike. He was released by Sussex late in the 2013 season, but was picked up by Essex, albeit his form remained unconvincing.

Panesar’s last international series was against Australia in the 2013/14 Ashes, but he latterly re-joined Northants in 2016, however, this proved to be his final season in County cricket.

In January 2017, Panesar was recruited by Cricket Australia as a spin-bowling consultant for the tour of India, after spending his winter as a club cricketer in Sydney.

Since his retirement, Panesar has studied Sports Journalism at St. Mary’s University London, where he learnt the trade from Neil Kingston. He has subsequently been involved with the media whilst continuing to enjoy the beloved game with Legends League, PCA, and Lashings outings along the way.

In 2024, Panesar has a new venture, a club stint with East Anglian Premier League side Great Witchingham, where he will link up with Big Bash star Jake Weatherald. He will be eager to re-live his success of old for his new club next summer.