Jun 19, 2020
George DobellSenior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
Vikram Solanki is committed to sustaining Surrey’s record of producing “home-grown” players in his new role at the club’s head coach.
Surrey have, in one way or another, supplied six of the 30-man training squad which England named this week ahead of the Test series against West Indies. While one (Dom Sibley) has moved on to Warwickshire and another (Ben Foakes) came from Essex, it does reflect Surrey’s remarkable contribution towards the England sides in recent years.
Further Surrey players – the likes of Jason Roy, Tom Curran and Will Jacks – could also come into the equation when England name a limited-overs squad, with former players such as Laurie Evans and Chris Jordan, also vying for selection. Reece Topley, who has recently joined the club, could also return to the limited-overs team.
And while Solanki, who was appointed as Michael di Venuto’s successor as head coach this week, was quick to credit the contribution of Surrey’s academy director, Gareth Townsend, he suggested the club’s entire ethos and age-group system was responsible for the number of playing going on to represent the club’s first teams and England.
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“I’m firmly of the view that if you see an example of your peers progressing – like Ollie Pope, who has gone through the whole Surrey system – then it’s likely that if you’re presented with a similar opportunity you’ll see the path ahead. It’s often the case that a crop of youngsters come through together because one comes through and achieves something special and the others think ‘well, if he can, then I’ve every chance’.
“The work that Gareth has done with the academy and the commitment towards developing Surrey players and offering them opportunities to play in the first team bodes well for producing England cricketers. It gives them the opportunity to show how good they are and to grow.
“But a lot of that must come from even prior to the work Gareth does. It comes from the age-group coach and the commitment to good programmes. Then there’s a transition to the academy, which is a fairly challenging environment, Gareth pushes those guys hard.
“It’s not an automatic conveyor belt. There might be a period where only one or two go through. But, in terms of planning, you’ve got to see the pipeline is maintained.”
Solanki’s words could equally apply to young cricketers from the BAME communities. But while he made it clear he would welcome his promotion, as the first head coach in county cricket from the British Asian communities, in “accelerating” the progress of people from a BAME background in every walk of lie, he insisted he had not encountered racism in his own career.
“Racism in any walk of life is abhorrent,” he said. “I genuinely do feel a sense of regret for anyone who has experienced that. I couldn’t tell you why it’s taken so long to see a British Asian head coach.
“I, however, can only speak of my own experiences. I’ve been very lucky. At both clubs I’ve been involved with and in my time with England, it’s not been the case in my career
“Does being the first British Asian head coach in county cricket bring added pressure? I don’t think so. The fact that I’m head coach of Surrey is sufficient pressure. It’s neither here or there if I’m successful because of my background.
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“There certainly is a great degree of movement throughout the world – not just in our sport, but in society in general – where there might be a shift [in attitudes]. Where people’s opinions are beginning to be heard. If that is the case, then great. Coming back to cricket specifically… I can only speak for my experiences. I think we have encouraged people from different backgrounds. I played with players from all backgrounds. I’ve coached players from all backgrounds.
“I suppose I should temper that by saying I appreciate that might not be the experience for everyone else. But at Surrey, with the numerous programmes to encourage involvement of people from different backgrounds, I consider it as something that’s ongoing. If this accelerates all of those matters, then great.”
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