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Indian batsmen the 'ultimate challenge' for a spinner: Monty

July 13, 2007 16:24 IST

Although 'Baby' Monty Panesar's most treasured possession is the ball which dismissed his idol Sachin Tendulkar, the spinner says he always wanted to play for England despite a desire to play in the same side as the batting ace.

''I asked Sachin to sign that ball, and it's so precious that I keep it in my bedroom. That's one of my most treasured moments, and always will be,'' Monty said.

The ball was signed by the Sachin, with the inscription, ''Once in a blue moon!''

The 25-year-old, who claimed his first 10-wicket haul during the third Test victory over the West Indies recently, concedes "the ultimate challenge" for a spin bowler is to bowl to the Indians, who he regards as the best players of spin in the world.

In spite of being ranked sixth in the world, the 'Sikh of Tweak' thinks he still has a long way to go before he can be considered one of the best bowlers.

"They [Indians] are the best players of spin bowling in the world and we have a tough series ahead. It was hard in India, where the ball turns a lot. However, it will be even tougher here, where it doesn't turn so much.

"I see it as the ultimate challenge for a spinner, breaking through the India batting in English conditions," he adds.

"I am told I am among the top 10 bowlers in Test cricket, but I still have a lot to learn," a humble Panesar said.

"I just feel lucky to be where I am and a lot of people have helped me along the way. But, to be honest, I feel more like a baby than a top 10 bowler, with so much still to learn," he said.

The Northamptonshire player, who was back in his hometown of Luton for an Npower promotion admitted, "Yes, it would have been nice to play in the same side as my hero, Sachin Tendulkar, but I always wanted to play for England."

About his maiden wicket -- that f Tendulkar -- in Test cricket, Panesar said, "It was my childhood dream to play for England. When I played in Nagpur and captured the wicket of Sachin Tendulkar I couldn't believe it.

"But I don't know whether I will be in awe of them as much as I was when I made my England debut last year; in Nagpur it was a strange feeling to be bowling at these guys I had followed on TV from a young age.

"To get Sachin as my first Test wicketÂ… let's say, I was just lucky the ball hit his pad before his bat, but it was a great feeling to get your childhood hero out, start jumping around and running off towards third man in a state of excitement," he recalled.

Even as he is yet to be convinced he belongs on the same stage as India's vaunted top six and his spin counterpart Anil Kumble, Monty, who has 65 wickets to his name, says, ''It's going to be exciting, and at the same time frightening, to play against India again because they are the world's best players of spin -- and I still feel like a baby in terms of other spinners out there.

''I can only learn about the art of spin from someone like Anil Kumble, who has taken more than 550 Test wickets, and I'll probably gain a lot just by playing against him.''

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