Northants head coach David Ripley believes Monty Panesar can give the county an ‘edge’ after funding was secured for the player ahead of the new season.
Left-arm spinner Panesar, who was playing for former side Luton Town & Indians towards the end of last year, has been formally included the squad for the new campaign after finding his own financial backing.
The 33-year-old has been training with Northants and joined them on their pre-season tour of Barbados after paying for his own trip.
He has been stepping up his recovery from shoulder surgery in recent weeks and is now taking part in practice, though he is not currently doing throwing drills.
Ripley is hopeful Panesar, who has taken 167 wickets in 50 Tests for England, could be available for selection within a couple of weeks.
And the coach, whose side host Sussex in a County Championship Division Two opener on Sunday, said: “Monty’s been coming along training with us with the end goal of us registering us and make a commitment that he’s a Northants player, and that’s where we’ve got to.
“We’ve been going along very slowly down that road.
“We haven’t had any money to put into any salary as such so the salary has been funded at Monty’s end. He’s found a couple of backers to support him over the summer to play cricket for us if selected.
“We’re taking it slowly and although we’re happy he’s well and he’s responding nicely around the group, he’s yet to get in the team, so he’s going to have to earn that opportunity by progressing and getting to the level he was at not long ago.
“There’s been a lot of uncertainty and “is he, isn’t he?”, but we wanted to make sure he was well and we were able to help each other, and we’ve got to that stage.
“He’s just a member of the squad now and he needs to get himself onto the teamsheet.”
And when asked for an update on Panesar’s fitness, Ripley said: “He can’t throw at the moment.
“He’s had his shoulder surgery but he’s bowling in practice. He’s got some measured workload and he’s on the board for practice most days.
“We’re starting to build up his throwing programme now and he’ll be a couple of weeks away from selection.
“Then it’s up to Monty to try to get somewhere near where he’s been in the past so he can press his claims.
“He could give us a little edge that we maybe haven’t currently got.”