“It Has Everything” – Ex-England Cricketer Panesar Reflects On London Classic Experience

Ex-England cricket international Monty Panesar was one of a few famous faces who travelled to Alexandra Palace to watch the inaugural edition of the London Squash Classic last week, with the former spinner picking up the racket to have a hit with one particularly familiar name on court.

Panesar, 41, enjoyed some time on the stunning all-glass court within the world-famous Ally Pally with none other than former Spanish No.1 Borja Golan, before watching the events of semi-finals day unfold from court-side.

The day in question was certainly one to remember for Panesar, who witnessed Sivasangari Subramaniam and Nele Gilis go toe-to-toe in a brutal 94-minute encounter, as well as watching high-quality wins for Paul Coll, Hania El Hammamy, and Mostafa Asal.

On the fervent atmosphere within Ally Pally, and how it compared with other notable sports, Panesar said: “The atmosphere was absolutely unbelievable. I like my boxing and darts and it was similar to that. The entrances, the glamour and the explosiveness of the squash players, it has that similar feel.

“I hope that squash can take off. It has that entertaining, glamorous side to it. I absolutely love it – it was high level squash and it was brilliant.

“The tournament as a whole was absolutely amazing as well. The concept of it, both the men’s and the women’s together, is great because you get to see the level of squash that is played by both genders. Overall, you can see how brilliant it is and also you get to feel where the best players are from.

“The people that were at the event, we ended up playing cricket at the bar and that’s the type of fans that they are. They’re like the darts and boxing fans – very passionate supporting fans, and I really hope squash takes off.”

Having played cricket at the highest level for his country, competing in 50 Test matches for England, as well as a further 27 limited overs matches, Panesar is no stranger to elite level sport and the level of dedication required to reach the top.

He was nonetheless left in awe at the extremes that squash players push their bodies to, and some of the close-up dynamism that he witnessed during his time at the London Classic.

He said: “What I enjoyed the most was the level of squash. With any tournaments when you go there, if the quality of sport is a very high level, you are very impressed with it and how good they are. It gives you an insight into how impressive these athletes are.

“Some of the numbers on their fitness levels show they are some of the fittest athletes in the world.

“What impressed me most was how powerful they are, how quick, how dynamic and how strong they are. Their athleticism is unbelievable. The sport in general is quick and fast, but then there are the subtleties of how you construct and win a point.

“It has everything that, as an ex-athlete, you watch it and go, wow!”

The former England spinner also received a signed racket from World No.4 Mostafa Asal during his time court-side, a player who among others, he was quick to wax lyrical about.

As well as the incredible athleticism of those such as Asal, Panesar also noted the nuances and strategy of the sport that others, such as eventual women’s champion Sivasangari Subramaniam, were able to display.

“The players that impressed me the most were Mostafa Asal from Egypt, who also gave me his racket which was brilliant, Paul Coll from New Zealand as well, you can see there is an extra edge and power to them. Also Sivasangari Subramaniam was brilliant – she just had that little bit more bite and a bit of a snap in her shots. She disguised the points very well and was a really clever player.

“Nele Gilis was also really very impressive. You could just see the levels of fitness that are required to play at this level.”

He finished by adding: “After coming to this event, I now want to play more squash and get better at it. I will definitely come back and watch live squash again.”