"Monty, obviously, because he looks similar to me.
"In the community I am from we are a minority in a lot of industries. So when you do see someone progressing and doing well in the field you are in it really motivates you and shows you that you can do it."
Left-arm spinner Panesar played 50 tests for England between 2006-13 before mental health issues effectively derailed his career.
Virdi is behind Jack Leach, Dom Bess and Moeen Ali in England's spin pecking order but still fancies making his test debut in the first match against West Indies in Southampton from July 8.
"I definitely want to be playing in the first test and I want to be in the squad," said Virdi, who claimed 69 wickets from 23 first class matches.
"If I didn't want to do that I probably shouldn't be here," he added.
"I'm very proud of myself that I've got to this stage. The next stage is about pushing for a test place and whenever that does happen, I'm going to keep working hard." (Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)