Amar Virdi – Spinning his way up top | England vs West Indies

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Born in the Chiswick district of South West London, Amar Virdi, the 21-year-old hailing from the Sikh community traces back his ancestral origins to the Indian state of Punjab. Virdi was born in a family that had a fair share of history with sports. His parents migrating from East Africa came to London with very different reasons. His father, Raj, a tennis player for Kenya in his junior years came to the United Kingdom in search of a university and his mother, Harmeet, who came to London after deciding to move away from the dictatorship government by the Ugandan President Idi Amin amidst those torrid times.

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Virdi was introduced to the gentleman’s game at a very young age by his brother Gursimran. He was very keen on not taking up scholarship offers from private universities which were considered to be more fruitful for cricketing opportunities because he didn’t want to be part of a boarding school environment. He decided to continue schooling at the Guru Nanak Sikh academy which ensured he was in close distance to his training ground and family home. He initially joined the iconic Indian Gymkhana Cricket Club but the progress Virdi made with his cricket was so rapid that his ever-improving off-spinners helped him keep climbing up the pecking order.

 

He soon made a move to Sunbury where he started gaining attention despite his tender age. Virdi, who has been playing adult cricket since the age of 13, has been with Surrey for quite some time now sharing his journey with some of the other prominent names in the English circuit namely Sam Curran and Ollie Pope.

Virdi got his opportunity to debut for the England U19 side vs Sri Lanka in 2016 and soon got a call to the English Lions squad in a tour of Australia.  He draws a lot of inspiration from the career of former England spinner Monty Panesar who he relates with quite well since both of them hail from the same community and wants to follow the path of his idol. Virdi finally made his first-class debut for Surrey in 2017 aged just 17 years but it was in 2018 when he made massive strides towards his England ambitions.

Claim to fame 

The talent of Amar Virdi really came to the fore during his first full season in 2018 and his ability was something that you wanted to take notice of because he had just displaced one of Surrey’s most experienced spinner and their captain back then, Gareth Batty,  from the playing eleven. Virdi was highly instrumental in Surrey’s title-winning campaign in 2018 when he clinched 39 wickets in 14 games at an average of 30.35 and also was the club’s third-highest wicket-taker that season. 

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Virdi had to miss out on the pre-season of 2019 due to stress injury on his back that kept him out of the initial games but what happened then was an interesting turn of events.

Former England wicket-keeper Alec Stewart, who is also the director of Surrey cricket, went hard on Virdi. The youngster came back a little out of shape post the break and he made him sit out of the first nine games of 2019 season despite his terrific exploits in the first full season.

Virdi then worked really hard on his fitness and went through a strict regime to get back in shape and back playing a period which he recalls fondly as “tough love” which Alec Stewart showered on him. Virdi feels this had made him a much better cricketer and made him understand the value of fitness and showcases the determination and spirit of this Surrey star.

Virdi’s standout feature in his art of bowling off-spin is his aggressive instincts which always keeps him in pursuit of wickets and not merely being economical. If Virdi goes on to make his debut in the upcoming series against West Indies, he will become the third-ever Sikh player to represent England in the longest format after Monty Panesar and Ravi Bopara. This series is a real opportunity for Virdi. 

The chances of getting an opportunity to play in this series against West Indies look very stiff as he will be up against the likes of a returning Moeen Ali and Dom Bess, who returned terrific numbers in England’s tour of South Africa, and Ashes hero Jack Leach. Despite the tough competition for places, it will be interesting to see if England get an early advantage in the series whether they will be keen on exploring the depth of their spin reserves considering the tour of India early next year.

Record

Amar Virdi has 23 first-class games next to his name with a wicket tally of 69 and all of this at an ever improving average of 28.78. Virdi’s career-best figures of 14/139 came in July last year in a game against Notts where 37 out of the 40 wickets fell to spinners. This was a testament to the extent of which Amar Virdi could exploit the wickets which had something in it for the spinners and a performance that made people in England take notice of this young talent who is constantly climbing up the charts. An aspect of his which he probably doesn’t match up with his counterparts in the squad is his batting. He averages only 9.61 in FC cricket, an improvement of which could only hold him in good stead.

It will be interesting to see how the career of this highly talented 21-year-old unfolds and how much he will be able to contribute to the progress of English cricket.



Freelance cricket writer. Taking small strides in this giant industry. Writes at Sportskeeda and CricTracker