Surrey’s new head coach Vikram Solanki says his decision to go into coaching, rather than cricket, administration is down to the man he will now work closely with when the county season finally gets underway on August 1 – the Oval outfit’s director of cricket Alec Stewart.
Solanki, who made 51 one-day and three T20 international appearances for England, takes over from Michael Di Venuto, who has stepped down after five years in charge.
In 2013, Solanki swapped Worcester, where he spent 18 seasons, for South London. Two years later, shortly before strapping on his batting pads for the last time, it was a conversation with Stewart that influenced Solanki’s move into full-time coaching.
“Alec spoke to me about remaining involved at Surrey when I finished my own playing career,” said the 44-year-old.
“He invited me, initially, to get involved with the second team and it was that experience, working with younger players, which really opened my eyes to a desire to stay in the game in a hands-on capacity.
“I knew from my own playing days how important it was for senior players to work with younger cricketers – to be generous with their time and pass on their experience – and I quickly realised that coaching was something that I could do and that I enjoyed.”
Towards the end of his playing career Solanki had been heavily involved in administration through the Professional Cricketers’ Association, where he rose to become chairman and was, briefly, acting chief executive.
Solanki rose through the coaching ranks to become assistant head coach, not only at Surrey but also with Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League.
When Di Venuto and Surrey agreed last month that the coronavirus crisis would prevent him from seeing out a contract that was due to expire in March next year, Solanki became the first British Asian head coach in county cricket.
“There is no bigger club in England,” said Solanki. “But what I am looking forward to the most is working alongside some brilliant people, and building on what Alec, Michael Di Venuto and so many others have already achieved in recent years. Our squad contains a great mixture of established talent and young up and coming players looking for opportunities.
“Producing good young players, and players who go on to represent England, should be the remit for all clubs.
“Surrey have put a lot of hard work into producing young England cricketers, and hopefully many of them will really continue to fly at international level in the near future.”
Solanki hopes his standing in the game and his range of experience can act as an inspiration to help open up opportunities for others.
“At Surrey we have numerous programmes to encourage involvement of people from different backgrounds,” he said.
“I consider it as something that’s ongoing. If this accelerates all of those matters, then great. Do I think it’s necessary? I think society and all walks of life should reflect the sort of demographic that is present in England. If that can be the case in cricket then that’s great.
“Does it bring added pressure? I don’t think so. The fact that I’m head coach of Surrey is sufficient pressure.”
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