Virat Kohli’s County Stint: A Timely Move

If there has been one blip in Virat Kohli’s magnificent Test career, it has been his horrible performance in England in the summer of 2014. That series has haunted Kohli in the past few years and has always been used by his critics whenever they want to discuss Kohli the batsman. But four years since that horror show, the Indian superstar is on route to rectify that.

In the middle of the ongoing IPL, Virat Kohli has secured plans of playing for Surrey to prepare for India’s forthcoming Test tour of England in August this year. It will involve playing all formats for close to a month, but Kohli’s main focus is the four-day games he will be playing for the county. While this move would mean that Kohli would have to skip the Test match against Afghanistan in June, it is essential and could make a huge difference before Kohli takes on Anderson and company in the 5-Test series.

Kohli is arguably the world’s best batsman across formats at the present moment. He takes a lot of pride in his game and that series in England must have stung him bad. He averaged 13.40 in the five Tests – 4.75 against James Anderson – and did not go past the score of 40 even once in ten innings. It wasn’t just a failure. It was a massive blotch on Kohli’s aura as a batsman. The swing and seam on the England pitches troubled him and he repeatedly nicked the ball behind by moving away slightly around the off-stump.

Almost four years have passed since that series and lesser batsmen than Kohli would have been permanently damaged by such a stunning failure. Kohli, however, took it in his stride and went on to score bucketfuls of runs across all formats and against all countries to establish himself as the most dominant batsman of this era.

But the ghosts of the summer of 2014 in England have refused to leave him. And the Surrey deal is the best possible way he can erase those horrific memories. He has definitely improved his off-side play in the past couple of years but playing in English conditions well before the Tests would be certainly helpful in further ironing out that deficiency.

It is laudable that Kohli has chosen this route rather than sitting on his laurels. He has shown that Test cricket is the ultimate priority for him and he wants to excel at it at all costs. Success can never be guaranteed in cricket. But at least he is adopting the right way for it.

That Kohli is prepared to miss an international Test match in order to prepare for a series in England shows how desperate he is to do well there. Kohli knows he is the best batsman of the team and that he doing well there presents India the best opportunity to beat England in England – something they have not been able to achieve on their past two Test tours. So this stint with Surrey isn’t just for his desperate desire to be the best batsman in the world. It is a way he feels would be beneficial for his team at large.

And those who might feel that Surrey is bending over backwards to acquire Kohli, it has been declared by a BCCI official that Surrey is only paying airfare, accommodation and a very nominal match fee during the month when Kohli will be with the English county.

The move will also be beneficial for Surrey and English county at large. Reportedly, they are pulling all the stops for promoting Kohli and one can bet that crowds will be coming in droves to watch Kohli in action. So in the larger picture, this will be benefiting cricket.

But the main point is that England is the only country in which Virat Kohli has played more than one Test and does not have a century. Kohli cannot afford another performance like that of 2014 for the sake of his team. As captain and leading batsman, Kohli is thus doing everything he can to set the tempo for this much-awaited series.

A good performance in the England Test series will set Kohli on the path to be one of the greatest ever and will ensure that he would have dominated every cricketing nation in Test cricket. And Kohli doing good in Tests can only mean good things for Indian cricket. That is why the move to play for Surrey is so vital. So, whether or not Kohli succeeds in England this summer he should certainly be applauded for being brave enough to tread the right path for it.

Tags: Virat Kohli