Kohli set to play County cricket for Surrey to prepare for England

India captain Virat Kohli has been granted permission by the Board to play three county matches for Surrey in June before the commencement of the tour to England. Kohli had approached the Board with his request during the recent tour to South Africa.

India captain Virat Kohli averages just 13.4 in 10 innings in England.   -  Getty Images

India captain Virat Kohli has been granted permission by the Board to play three county matches for Surrey in June before the commencement of the tour to England. Kohli had approached the Board with his request during the recent tour to South Africa.

India begins the tour on July 3 with a T20 match against England at Old Trafford, Manchester. The first of the five Tests starts at Birmingham on August 1.

In a tweet supporting Kohli’s move, touch artist VVS Laxman said, “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!”

It is the intention to do well and erase poor memories of his previous tour to England, that prompted Kohli to give the Test against debutant Afghanistan a miss. His aggregate on the 2014 tour to England was 134 runs with a sequence of 1, 8, 25, 0, 39, 28, 0, 7, 6 and 20.

The Committee of Administrators (CoA) chairman Vinod Rai granted the permission to Kohli in order to enable him prepare for the series against England. Much had been said about India’s lack of preparation for the series against South Africa which the home team won 2-1.

Apart from Kohli, fast bowler Ishant Sharma and top-order batsman Cheteshwar Pujara would be playing in the county circuit this season. Ishant has been signed by Sussex and Pujara by Yorkshire. It is learnt that Pujara, who, like Ishant, was not picked by any franchise for the Indian Premier League (IPL), is likely to fly back to play against Afghanistan in the Test at Bangalore starting June 14.

Kohli, who will lead Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) in the IPL, will get to play three county matches before the Test. “Three county matches would be a better preparation for Virat than a Test against Afghanistan. I don’t mean any disrespect for Test cricket or Afghanistan but the reality is that Kohli would be better off if he gets into the groove of the situation by gaining first-hand experience before the tough tour,” Laxman added.

None of the elected office-bearers of the Board – acting president CK Khanna, acting secretary Amitabh Choudhary and acting treasurer Anirudh Chaudhry – were consulted in this matter since the CoA contends the trio’s term is over.

A strong advocate of Test cricket, Kohli is determined to set a new benchmark for overseas achievements, especially England since India had been outplayed on the last two visits in 2011 and 2014. The short stint is expected to help Kohli be in a strong mental frame to tackle the seam and swing he would encounter on the tour.

ohli’s coach Rajkumar Sharma summed up the development well. “He is going there to get acclimatized to the testing English conditions. We must also appreciate the fact that he is sacrificing a Test match. Not many would let go an opportunity to make the most against a new team. He could have accumulated runs but he doesn’t play for individual records."