Monday, November 16, 2009

Sussex sign Monty Panesar

Monty Panesar has ended a ten-year association with Northamptonshire, after agreeing to join Sussex on a three-year contract in a bid to reclaim his England place.

Panesar, who is currently playing for Highveld Lions in South Africa, has taken 126 wickets in 34 Test appearances for England. But his career stalled during a disappointing 2009 season, in which he managed just 18 wickets for Northants at almost 60 runs apiece. His only Test of the summer came at Cardiff in July, when his batting helped to salvage a crucial draw.

"Success in this new challenge with Sussex can only improve my chances of reclaiming my place with England, which is the pinnacle for any player," said Panesar. "I am grateful to Northamptonshire for all their support in my career so far and for allowing me to make this move."

Panesar can expect to return to Wantage Road next season after Sussex were relegated to the second division of the County Championship. But having picked up three titles in the 2000s, they remain an ambitious club and have targeted an instant return to the top flight.

"I know [the captain] Michael Yardy well from rooming with him on tour," said Panesar. "I am really looking forward to working under his captaincy, and with the coaching staff at Hove, to help the club reclaim its Division One status and maintain its premier position in the shorter forms of the game."

Sussex's manager Mark Robinson said he was "very excited" about the impending arrival of Panesar. "It is testament to the club that we are able to attract a player of Monty's calibre," he said. "I am sure he will play a key part in helping us achieve our aims for the coming season."

Hove is a venue with a great tradition of spin bowling, and the absence last season of the legendary Mushtaq Ahmed was cited as a major factor in their relegation. The Indian legspinner Piyush Chawla managed to claim 36 wickets in six Championship games, but he has since gone on to sign for Surrey.

Panesar's former employers were phlegmatic about his departure, and in a press release the club stated that "both Monty and Northants feel that it is right for [him] to find a new challenge and try to regain the form that made him arguably the best fingerspinner in the world."

"I have known and worked with Monty since he was a 16-year-old," said the head coach, David Capel, "and have really enjoyed seeing his rise from determined youngster with potential to becoming a full England representative. Over the years we have spent many enjoyable hours working together and wish to thank him for his contributions to Northants cricket.

"I am sad that Monty is moving on, however as a coach and a supporter of English cricket I am sure that a move at this stage of his career is the right thing for Monty. I am sure he will relish the new challenge ahead of him, everyone at Northants wishes him well and look forward to seeing Monty regaining his place in the England team".

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