Amar Virdi and Ollie Westbury, who were England Under-19s team-mates last summer, were both recognised by the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust at a dinner in the Long Room at Lord’s last week.
Virdi, the Surrey offspinner who has been selected for the Young Lions programme this winter, was the fifth winner of the Spin Bowling Medal of Achievement, as part of the Trust’s support of young spinners in memory of the much-loved former Test Match Special commentator.
Westbury, the Worcestershire opener who scored 196 on his England Under-19s debut against Sri Lanka at Fenner’s, won the Medal of Achievement among the players who had been granted scholarships by the BJMT last year – in his case to help with the costs of commuting to and from his Dudley base.
Andy Hurry, the Young Lions and England Under-19s coach, said: “Congratulations to both Amar and Ollie for these awards. They were newcomers to international Under-19s cricket last year and both made significant contributions against Sri Lanka, and gained a lot from the experience.
“They were both awarded contracts by their counties late in the summer, and these awards from the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust are further deserved recognition of the progress they are making.”
“The support provided by the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust has helped so many young players over the years."
Peter Such, the ECB’s lead spin-bowling coach, and David Graveney OBE, the chairman of selectors for the Under-19s, both attended the dinner, at which Sir John Major was the guest speaker, with former Kent and England captain Chris Cowdrey interviewing the winners.
“The support provided by the Brian Johnston Memorial Trust has helped so many young players over the years,” said Such.
“In terms of spinners, it allows us to have a network of specialist spin bowling coaches around the 18 first-class counties and MCC Universities. Amar is the fifth winner of the Spin Bowling Medal Achievement award who have come from four different counties, following Andrew Salter of Glamorgan, Adam Riley of Kent, and Brad Taylor and Mason Crane of Hampshire. And it’s also worth noting that in the last few weeks Zafar Ansari has become the first beneficiary of the programme to play Test cricket.
“The BJMT also award scholarships direct to cricketers in need of financial assistance, and Ollie Westbury is the latest of many young players to have benefited from that.”
“It was an honour to receive the award,” Westbury told Worcestershire’s website. “I was very grateful to receive the scholarship in the first place and to then have the summer I have had and win the award is brilliant.
“The 196 against Sri Lanka was the highlight. The summer couldn’t really have gone any better for me.”
Richard Anstey, the BJMT administrator, said: “The Trust has been running since 1995, and the focus on spin was there from the start because the great Johnners was already yearning for the day when we had an English Shane Warne.
“Initially we worked with Terry Jenner, the Australian leg-spin coach who had been Warne’s mentor. After Terry’s death in 2011, the programme was revised and is spread throughout the 18 first-class counties by Peter Such.”
Johnston will never be forgotten, and thanks to the work of the Trust, many more young cricketers will benefit from his love of the game, as Virdi and Westbury have this year.