India skipper Virat Kohli has reportedly opted to play county cricket for Surrey in June, with a view to improving his batting performance in England before the start of the away series against the opposition. According to a report by news agency PTI, the 29-year old will miss Afghanistan’s historic Test debut in Bengaluru from June 14 and instead travel to south of London after the conclusion of Indian Premier League (IPL) 2018 season. Should Kohli play in England, Ajinkya Rahane is believed to step in as skipper.
“Virat (Kohli) will be playing for a division one county side for sure. I wouldn’t like to add anything more to it. There were talks with Surrey and Essex,” a senior BCCI official was quoted as saying by PTI.
The decision to let Test specialists play in England was taken following India’s 1-2 defeat against South Africa wher the team management admitted they should have prepared better for the series. “This time we have been pro-active because post the South Africa experience we felt that exposure was essential for the team,” Vinod Rai, the chairman of the committee of administrators, the body governing the BCCI, told ESPNcricinfo. “So we have given him and other Test specialists permission to play in county cricket.”
Rai further added that few pther Test spsecialists would be part of the India A squad, coached by Rahul Dravid, who will play two four-day matches in England in June. The decision was made in consultation with head coach Ravi Shastri, Dravid, BCCI CEO Rahul Johri, and Saba Karim (BCCI’s general manager of cricket) along with Kohli.
The report adds that the decision has been taken by the Indian captain in a bid to improve his batting in England, where he has not been able to perform at his best. Kohli has played five Tests in the country and has managed to score only 134 runs at an average of 13.4. If the reports are true, the right-hand batsman will become the first Indian to join Surrey, who have hosted some of the legends over the years.
Virat Kohli ‘s decision to play county cricket before the England series shows his drive and commitment to achieve excellence. I am sure not only him,but Team India will do exceedingly well in the England series. Best wishes!
— VVS Laxman (@VVSLaxman281) March 24, 2018
The report says that Kohli will make himself available for Surrey’s three four-day matches against Hampshire, Somerset and Yorkshire between June 9 and June 28.
Virat Kohli has made a strong statement of intent about the England tour where he has unfinished business by opting to play county cricket. In doing so, has also prioritised opposition by missing the test against Afghanistan
— Harsha Bhogle (@bhogleharsha) 24 March 2018
He will not be alone in playing county cricket to ready himself for the England tour. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, who went unsold this year at the IPL Auction, will also play the upcoming season of the county championship for Yorkshire and Sussex, respectively, starting April 7.
Surrey’s director and former England wicketkeeper Alec Stewart has shown keen interest in signing the prolific batsman. “I did enquire a while back about Kohli when it appeared to be a possible option for him to play county cricket but was told India were playing Ireland in T20s and an inaugural Test against Afghanistan in June before the England tour. If he does now become available we would look at it again to see if it could potentially work around our current overseas arrangements,” Stewart told The Telegraph.
India are scheduled to play three T20Is, three ODIs and five Tests against England starting with the first T20I at Old Trafford in Manchester on July 3.