England’s Amar Virdi on lack of British Asian players in county cricket
Surrey spinner Amar Virdi could become the third Sikh to play for England, after Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara, having been named in a 30-man training group ahead of the Test series against West Indies.
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However, less than six per cent of the players in men’s county cricket are from a British Asian background, compared with around a third in the recreational game.
Speaking to reporters from England’s training base in Southampton, Virdi looked at some of the reasons for the drop off between club and professional level.
“There are so many factors but I think a lot of it is to do with your mindset and upbringing,” said the off-spinner, who has played 23 first-class games for Surrey since debuting in 2017.
“Growing up a lot of people’s parents support the team where their background is from so you do the same but, from a young age, I have always supported England. I think that mindset is important.
“Secondly, it can be daunting for a lot of people from minority communities to play cricket in their community and then move to a bigger club.
“For example, I started at Indian Gymkhana Cricket Club which is a majority Asian cricket club, so I found it quite daunting moving to Sunbury at about 12 years old.
“But it was the best move for my cricket as I think it is important to play at a standard that is recognised and you have a lot of ex-pros at the club and support.
“A lot of kids from minorities, even though I think it is changing now, don’t go to private schools and may not be able to afford those opportunities. That is a problem as maybe the county set-ups are not seeing you play.
“At a private school, you are getting cricket on a weekly basis whereas as state school you might not even play it, like at my school. So maybe county set-ups are not seeing you.
“A lot of people also don’t understand the commitment it takes from a parent.
“I am so thankful to my mum and dad, I was so lucky that my parents had time to support me and drove me up and down the country for cricket. Without that I wouldn’t be here.
“But a lot of other people’s parents are busy making ends meet and don’t have time to take their kids to practice.
“A big thing I think should be done is more education for minority communities on how the county system works. A lot of people I speak to don’t know how to start.
“There is so much talent from so many different communities that definitely needs to be tapped into.”
Virdi will follow in fellow spinner Panesar’s footsteps if he debuts for England this summer.
Panesar took 167 wickets in 50 Tests between 2006 and 2013 and Virdi says seeing someone from his background flourishing was an inspiration.
“Growing up I watched Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar bowling, that was inspirational to me. Monty, obviously, because he looks similar to me.
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