Future Stars: Surrey Spinner, Amar Virdi

During his first full season of county cricket, Surrey off-spinner Amar Virdi was the leading English-born spinner in terms of wickets, taking an impressive 39 wickets in 14 matches.

Unfortunately for him, a stress-injury to his back limited him to just 5 games in 2019. Despite his injury, Virdi looked trimmer and more dangerous than ever, taking 23 wickets including a career-best of 8-61 against Nottingham.

Alec Stewart dished out some "tough love" last year when Virdi's overall physical fitness was called into question. However, when challenged to improve this aspect of his game, Virdi responded in exactly the right manner. Working tirelessly with Surrey's strength and conditioning coaches, Virdi was back in the team towards the end of the season and taking big wickets. If he can maintain that fitness level in 2020, the sky really is the limit.

Virdi has been playing first-team adult cricket since he was 13 years old. He turned down multiple offers of a private school education because he wanted to continue playing adult cricket, as well as a reluctance to go away to boarding school. Yet that hasn't prevented him from climbing the ladder at Surrey.

At just 21 years of age, Virdi will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of fellow Surrey young-boys Ollie Pope and Sam Curran in making his test debut for England. If he can maintain his 2019 form over a full 2020 season, then a call for the tour of the sub-continent next year has to be the goal.

Although he can trace his family to Punjab, Virdi grew up in West-London and was introduced to cricket by his older brother. After turning down the private school scholarship offers, he joined the historic Indian Gymkhana Cricket Club in Osterley. A club that was founded in 1916 and has seen the likes of Clive Lloyd and Sunil Gavaskar turn out for opposition teams and the great Sri Lankan Aravinda de Silva play there as a 17-year-old.

If you're a county cricket fan, you'll already be familiar with Virdi's impassioned appeals and his celebratory wheel away once the finger goes up. It's entertainment pure and simple and in 2019 Surrey members were delighted with the frequency of the wheel away.

With a flighty loop to his deliveries, Virdi is able to get the ball to grip and turn away from left-handed batters, often taking the outside edge.

It would be easy to forget just how young Virdi is, when he's not ripping it in the nets you'll find him working with youngsters (like at the Rajhastan Royals UK academy), and championing good causes on his social media channels. He may play the game with a youthful exuberance, but there is a real cricket-badger there with an experienced head on his shoulders.

Virdi recently had the chance to travel to the ECB's training camp in Mumbai to work with the great Rangana Herath a player who knows a thing or two when it comes to taking big international wickets.

The stress-fracture suffered in January 2019 kept Virdi out of the Lions tour of India, but he is currently with the Lions in Australia. Despite missing the first two games due to Dom Bess being in the squad, Virdi was included in the final match which started yesterday, taking 1 wicket in his 18 overs at an economy rate of 2.94.

For Virdi his focus is clear, having only appeared (so far) in red-ball cricket, it's that test-cap that he's after. England spin options at the moment are questionable, with a lot of unknowns.

Moeen still hasn't declared himself mentally ready to return to test cricket. Rashid is still taking a break and it's uncertain if he ever will return to test cricket now he's signed a white-ball only contract with Yorkshire. Bess and Parkinson are yet to really anchor their place in the team, although there have been some promising signs, and Jack Leach although a cult hero, hasn't done enough to make you think he's a sure selection.

So there's an opportunity there for Virdi to put his name in contention for a spot in the England team. Whether that comes in the summer against the West Indies and Pakistan, or the winter tour of India, a good 2020 season will open doors for the extremely promising young spinner.


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