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Cricket

Virat Kohli to play county cricket for Surrey

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In a bid to prepare better for India’s much-anticipated England tour later this year, skipper Virat Kohli has sought a short County Championship stint with Surrey this summer.

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According to a report published in The Times of India on Saturday (March 24), Kohli is likely to join up with Surrey in June, which could effectively rule the Indian skipper out of the overlapping landmark Test match against Afghanistan.

The last few years have witnessed Kohli’s meteoric rise as one of the best batsmen in the world. However, if there’s one frontier that the 29-year old is yet to conquer – especially in Tests – it’s England. His struggles against the moving ball were much scrutinized during the previous tour in 2014, where he returned with an ordinary average of 13.40 from five games. There appeared a glaring vulnerability in seaming and swinging conditions, as he felt for deliveries away from the body.

Kohli though has improved vastly since then, as evidenced by his exploits in the recently-concluded South Africa tour, where conditions were very seamer-friendly. Even so, the right-hander has sought time to acclimatize himself to the English conditions and will head to Surrey’s base, Oval, post-IPL 2018.

On the downside, this development could take a little bit of gloss off a landmark moment in the game as Afghanistan take their first steps in Test cricket. Elevated as Full Members of the ICC in 2017, Afghanistan will play their first-ever Test against India in Bengaluru on June 14. However, this period coincides with the three four-day matches that Surrey are scheduled to play – against Hampshire, Somerset and Yorkshire – during the same time.

Kohli’s inclination towards playing County cricket, however, indicates just how hungry he is to erase the blemishes from his only previous experience in England. Likewise, the Indian skipper had previously opted to play a game for India A in Chennai against the visiting Australia A side in order to get some long-form practice ahead of the then Test tour of Sri Lanka, in 2015.

Surrey’s director Alec Stewart has also shown a keen interest in signing the prolific batsman. “I did inquire 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.

Surrey already has Mitchell Marsh as one of their overseas players, who had earlier opted for a full season with the County side over an IPL stint. The club has also acquired the services of Australia opener Aaron Finch for the T20 Blast. In that case, Kohli will be their second overseas signing for the County Championship games. Apart from the India skipper, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma have already signed up with Yorkshire and Sussex respectively this season.

India’s tour of England gets underway from July 3, starting with the limited-overs leg featuring three ODIs and as many T20Is. The five-match Test series begins from August 1.

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