Surrey Head Coach Vikram Solanki has left the Club after nine years in order to become a Director of Cricket at the Indian Premier League.
Solanki initially joined in 2013 as a player and has transitioned into coaching during his time at The Kia Oval, initially covering the 2nd XI and then working under Michael Di Venuto with the 1st XI before receiving the Head Coach role ahead of the 2020 season.
Here we take a look at each season Solanki was with the Club and the impact he had.
Although his England playing days were now behind him, Solanki’s experience and deep knowledge of the game, alongside one of the most aesthetically pleasing batting styles in the game, made him a no-brainer of a signing.
Graeme Smith was the captain of a young Surrey side, with Gareth Batty deputising in his absence through injury. It was a difficult summer for the team, suffering relegation from Division One of the County Championship, but Solanki held his own with the bat – scoring 995 runs at 39.80.
A group stage exit of the 40 over competition was masked by a run all the way to the final of the Twenty20 Cup, when Solanki skippered on Finals Day in the absence of Smith & Batty.
587 runs in 18 innings in Division Two for Solanki in what proved to be his final full season as a first-class cricketer. It wasn’t enough to earn Surrey promotion back to Division One. He scored 197 runs in eight List A matches that summer and played one Twenty20 Cup match.
Having been a Chair of the PCA and a regular in the Sky Sports studio for international cricket, Solanki had long been considering his next move once his playing days were over. He played just one County Championship match in 2015, 1 List A match and 5 T20s but was engaging more and more in creating the next generation of cricketers.
He featured regularly in 2nd XI cricket that season, an experienced head for the likes of Sam Curran, Ollie Pope and Dom Sibley to look towards.
So began that transition into coaching, with Solanki now not in consideration for the 1st XI but instead featuring more sporadically for the 2nd XI but often taking on a coaching brief instead. When he did feature, it would be as a non-batting on-field captain.
This was a year that saw the likes of Will Jacks, Ryan Patel & Amar Virdi make their first steps into 2nd XI cricket and it was Solanki who spent significant amounts of time with them at this crucial stage of their development.
He also became the President of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations in March of this year.
No more on-field leadership, Solanki was now a full-time Assistant Coach with a brief that ranged across the men’s playing department but still largely focused fostering the competitive and nurturing environment in 2nd XI cricket that makes it so useful for youngsters moving into the senior game and contracted professionals to pick up more time in the middle.
In August, Sam Curran, Ollie Pope, Ryan Patel and Amar Virdi became the first set of four teenagers to play in the same County Championship side in the post-war era. A reflection of the talent progressing through the Club at that point, in which Solanki was a vital link between the Academy and 1st XI.
Moving to Assistant Head Coach for the 2018 season, Solanki was now working day-to-day with the 1st XI and travelling alongside Head Coach Michael Di Venuto. It was these two and new Club captain Rory Burns that took on the foundations set in previous years to lift the County Championship title for the first time in 16 years.
Several players he’d seen develop made this their year to become full internationals too, with Burns, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes and Ollie Pope getting call ups.
With the blessing of the Club, Solanki spent the early period of 2019 at the Indian Premier League with Royal Challengers Bangalore under Head Coach Gary Kirsten and with a team including Virat Kohli, AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn.
He returned to the Club upon the completion of his duties in India to work with Di Venuto, Stewart and fellow Assistant Coach Richard Johnson. It didn’t prove to be an overly successful season with Surrey finishing sixth in Division One and exiting both white-ball competitions at the group stage.
With Di Venuto’s departure at the end of the 2019 season, the opportunity arose for a new Head Coach of Surrey County Cricket Club. As a coach deeply trusted and respected by the players and coaches alike at the Club, Solanki was in pole position for the job.
In a difficult season with limited preparation, uncertainty abound and most importantly, no fans in the ground, Solanki’s impact was seen most clearly in the Vitality Blast. Surrey won nine South Group matches in a row, sweeping all before them to reach Finals Day with a crushing victory over Kent in the quarter-finals.
Held on 4th October on a wet, windy and miserable Sunday, only Caesar was there to watch as Surrey just fell at the final hurdle against Nottinghamshire.
The continuation of COVID restrictions throughout the 2020/21 winter meant preparation was again not as would have been hoped for but Head Coach Solanki began the season by thanking his players for their co-operation during the pandemic.
A frustrating start to the County Championship season in the temporary conference system effectively ruled out the Club’s hopes of first-class silverware early on while a tight fixture list in the Vitality Blast saw momentum halted once rain took a hold of June in its typically British fashion.
There was promise for the future with a young team decimated by The Hundred reached the Royal London Cup semi-final, with Solanki watching on while assisting Tom Moody with the Oval Invincibles.
Everyone at Surrey wishes Vikram the best in his new role.