Virdi: Panesar was my hero
Rising spin star Amar Virdi has thrown his weight behind the ECB's new South Asian Action plan.
The England Under-19 off-spinner, who recently bagged a six-wicket haul against Worcestershire in the County Championship, grew up idolising Indian twirler Harbhajan Singh.
But one of the key aims of the ECB initiative, focusing on South Asian communities in the UK, is for British Asians who make the breakthrough into the international ranks such as Virdi to become more visible role models themselves.
"I think it'll encourage a lot of South Asian kids to get involved in sport," said the teenager.
"That's what's really important - we want to see more playing at a higher level and I think this will help kids and their families to play more and support each other.
"My experience growing up was that cricket was the main sport but obviously things are changing - people like football and other sports as well.
"When I started playing, Harbhajan Singh was my icon - he stood out for me and I used to copy the way he bowled. Having someone that looks like you do is super-important.
"It gives you that belief that you can do it if they can do it. Being a young Sikh boy and keeping my hair on my head, there are not necessarily a lot of sportsmen around with that image.
"So seeing someone like that - and Monty Panesar as well - they really inspired me to show that I could do it too. On that basis, I never lost belief that I'd get a chance."
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