England’s latest spin prospect Amar Virdi is confident that he can force his way into the England XI in the upcoming three-match Test series against West Indies starting on July 8 at Southampton.
Virdi, an uncapped 21-year-old Surrey off-break bowler, is part of England’s 30-man training group preparing at the Ages Bowl, alongside fellow spinners Moeen Ali, Jack Leach, Dom Bess and Matt Parkinson for the next month’s Test series against the West Indies.
The young spinner could become the third Sikh to play for England after Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara, although, he will have to beat all fellow experience spinners to earn a place in England’s XI for the opening Test of the series.
However, the Surrey off-spinner doesn’t have experience at the highest level as he has so far played only 23 First-class matches, taking 69 wickets, though he has been part of the England Lions set-up for three years and most recently toured Australia, but he remains confident about his chances against the West Indies.
Speaking to reporters from Southampton, Virdi said: “I don’t really try to impress as such - I want to do my own thing and be who I am. That’s what I want to show people and show people what I’m capable of doing, rather than doing other things or try to forcefully show my skills,”
The spinner further added, “I definitely do want to be playing in the first Test match, or at least be in the squad. If I didn’t want to do that I probably shouldn’t be here. I’m very proud of myself that I’ve got to this stage. The next stage is about pushing for a Test place, so whenever that does happen, I’m going to keep working hard.”
Virdi also revealed Panesar has been a role model when he was asked to name his childhood cricket heroes – who is also from a British Asian background and represented England in 50 Tests and the youngster wants to follow the footsteps of fellow Sikh by establishing himself in the Test side.
The off-spinner further noted, “Growing up I remember watching Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar bowling and that was very inspirational to me. Obviously, with Monty it was because he looks very similar to me as well, especially being from the (Sikh) community that I am.”
He added, “We're in a minority in a lot of industries and to see someone progressing and doing well in the field you're in really motivates you and shows you, you can do it if they're doing it as well.”
However, less than six percent of the players in the county cricket are from a British Asian background, and Virdi said: “It can be very daunting for people from minority communities to be playing cricket just within your community and then moving to a bigger club. There is so much talent from so many different communities that definitely needs to be tapped into.”
He further added, “For instance, I started at Indian Gymkhana, which is majority Asian, and I found it daunting moving to Sunbury Cricket Club, which I did at about 12 years old. But that was the best move for my cricket because it’s important to play at a standard where it’s recognized, where you’ve got ex-pros at the club and where you’ve got a lot of support.”
On his strength, the off-spinner said: “I think you’ve got to be aggressive and you’ve got to be looking to take wickets. Maybe the pitches aren’t always going to be suited to you but as a spinner even if you are looking to keep it tight, my eyes are always on taking wickets regardless.”
Virdi signed off by saying, “Obviously being young, I’m still learning my skills and getting better at my skills, so you will bowl the odd loose ball or you might not get six balls in the perfect space. But I think you’ll bowl a lot more wicket-taking deliveries and that’s what makes you dangerous: when a batsman knows that you can get them out on any wicket.”
(With AFP/SkySports Inputs)