MONTY Panesar has put his troubles behind him and got a spring back in his step, according to Essex coach Paul Grayson.
Panesar took 11 wickets in Essex’s win at Glamorgan this week to take his season’s tally in championship cricket to 37.
The 32-year-old, who had a succession of on and off the field misdemeanours before joining Essex permanently last year, fell foul of the Chelmsford dressing room earlier this season.
He was dropped from the team for turning up late for their game at home to Glamorgan at the start of June and then dropped a week later with Grayson saying he needed to rebuild confidence in the second team.
He returned to the four-day team but his last game before this week’s trip to Wales was the win over Hampshire at Colchester a month ago.
But he returned to the spotlight in style in Swansea and Grayson believes his “match-winner” has got his mojo back.
“Most sportsmen I know need a bit of loving and we’ve certainly given Monty that here at Essex.
“A couple of times he has not bought into what we are trying to do and has paid the price for a couple of matches, but he has really been excellent in the past few weeks “It’s a difficult time of the year for him at the minute because he is not in our one-day side and his last championship game was at Colchester.
“But we have kept him pretty busy. He has been playing for the second team and has been finding a good rhythm and he showed that straight away against Glamorgan.
“He was a dream for James Foster as captain. He knew he could just throw him the ball and know he was going to bowl for a long spell, not concede many runs and take wickets.
“Everyone knows what a world-class bowler he is. He is a massive player for us and if he can maintain his form and confidence then he will give us a great opportunity of pushing for promotion from division two.
“He has got 37 wickets at 26s so far this season and that’s a good return considering a lot of the pitches have not turned. If he can finish strongly he has got a chance of 50 championship wickets.
“At the moment he is full of beans. He has got his spring back and everyone wants to see him like that. Not just Essex fans, but everyone in England.”
Grayson believes Panesar can also help Essex to promotion this year.
Leaders Worcestershire look like securing their place back in the top division, while, after the win against Glamorgan, Essex are fourth in division two, 20 points behind second-placed Hampshire.
Grayson said: “We have three championship games to go and I believe and the group believes we can win all three.
“Hampshire are favourites – but there are 70 points still to play for.”