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Vikram Solanki - England's star cricket player

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    Vikram Solanki - England's star cricket player

    BBC News Online's Thrasy Petropoulos speaks to Vikram Solanki, the star of England A's winter tour to Bangladesh and New Zealand

    One of more regrettable characteristics of English cricket is the lack of Asian players to have been picked for the national team.

    Quite apart from the latent talent which has obviously gone untapped, there is a sameness in the culture of most England cricketers which could do with a challenge.

    Aftab Habib was given his chance against New Zealand before being handed the sop of the England A tour where, it was hoped, he would find his feet.

    And the trip to Bangladesh and New Zealand has seen a young Asian batsman do just that, although it it is not Habib.

    Vikram Solanki, born in Udaipur, India before moving to Wolverhampton as a eight-year-old, has more than made a case for an extended run in the senior side.

    Solanki has now been on successive A tours, although this winter he has played a very different role.

    While he had to grab what he could on the 1998/9 trip to southern Africa, he was immediately targeted by captain Mark Alleyne as the senior batsman in the current squad.

    The challenge of going in at three has been met by Solanki with 433 first-class runs at an average of 84 before the internationals.

    The highlight was a masterful 185, featuring seven sixes and 20 fours, in typically subcontinental conditions in Chittagong, Bangladesh.

    Solanki so far
    Representative cricket from age of 15
    Worcs debut at 16
    Missed out in 1997/8 despite county average around 40
    433 runs averaging 84 on current trip
    185 in Chittagong with 27 boundaries

    It could be invaluable experience with England's senior squad going to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India in the next two winters.

    Had he not toured with England A this winter, Solanki would have played a season of domestic cricket in India, for Rajasthan.

    "I had the first eight years of my life in India," Solanki said. "I am quite comfortable in most conditions.

    "Take South Africa and Zimbabwe for instance, there is a common factor in all of it which is that the surroundings are challenges that you must learn to deal with."

    Solanki shows his competitive nature during England A training

    When there was a break for rain in Bangladesh, Solanki would take himself off to a quiet spot to continue his studies for an Open University business degree.

    "The realisation that you have to do something after cricket has led me to do courses like this," he said.

    "It's hard work but it also means you can really get away from cricket because you are channelling your energies somewhere else.

    "When it is raining instead of just withering away in the dressing room, getting involved in the useless banter, it gives you something else to do.

    "Cricket as a profession doesn't really set you up for life."

    Comfortable in international colours and prepared for life after cricket

    Solanki is no stranger to representative cricket, having played for most England age groups from the age of 15, but he has been made aware not to take selection for granted.

    "The year before I was picked for an A tour I had what I thought was reason to be picked, more so than when I actually did," he said.

    Despite averaging around 40 with the bat and taking 30 wickets with his off spin before that trip he went unselected.

    "That was quite a kick in the teeth really. You doubt yourself after that.

    Cricket as a profession doesn't really set you up for life

    Solanki on life after cricket
    "Having returned from Australia where I played club cricket that winter I didn't have a great year.

    "That really struck home. Either you get your act together or you are going to be a regular county cricketer."

    If there is one thing Solanki does not have the look of it is that of being a regular county cricketer.

    He is the most elegant batsman of his generation, full of wristy drives and flicks and is still only 23, despite having first played for Worcestershire at 16.

    He will join the England one-day party in South Africa in January. It could be the start of something special.