Earlier this month Indian great Kapil Dev suggested that India’s star man Virat Kohli needed a spell in County Cricket to help him put to rest any doubters who believe he is not good enough in English conditions.
England host India in a five match Test series later this summer and is the only country where Kohli, who will captain India on the tour, has truly struggled to score runs. To put this in context, Kohli averages 53.40 in all Tests and his average in each separate country (bar England) only dips below the 40 mark in the West Indies where he played his debut series. However, Kohli averaged 62.75 in his second Test series in the country in 2016, making his 36.33 average an anomaly.
In England however, Kohli averages a paltry 13.40 (albeit based on just the one Test series in 2014) and England has historically always been a difficult place for India to play Test match cricket, having won just three Tests since 1986 in England. Two of those wins actually came in 1986, the last time that India have beaten England in an away Test series, with their last win coming in 2007.
English and Indian conditions do massively differ from each other which is why England have only won the solitary series in India since 1984. English conditions favour seam and swing bowling whereas Indian conditions favour spinners and both teams do not experience a lot of the others’ conditions which of course means the home side will be more dominant.
Over the years, many Indians have plied their trade in the English County Championship, ranging from the legendary Sachin Tendulkar becoming the first overseas player to represent Yorkshire in 1992 to the upcoming 2018 season which will see the likes of Ishant Sharma represent Sussex and Cheteshwar Pujara represent Yorkshire. The question remains however, should Kohli join them?
Pujara, like Kohli, had a poor series against England in 2014, averaging just 22.20 and passing fifty just once. Since then, Pujara has had short stints at Derbyshire, Yorkshire and Nottinghamshire and averages an impressive 63.17 from his time in county cricket – a massive increase from his paltry return in the 2014 Test series.
While it cannot be denied that there is certainly a difference in quality between Tests and county cricket, it seems certain that Pujara’s success playing domestic cricket in England will stand him in good stead for the upcoming Test series. At the very least he will feel more confident facing a swinging new ball and a stint for Kohli would surely help him too.
Kohli himself has previously said that he would “love” to play for a county but whether he will be able to simply find the time seems to be the biggest issue hindering the move.
The IPL coincides with the start of England’s domestic season and, after it ends on May 27th, Kohli will only have a small window of time to spend at a county before the series kicks off with a T20 at Old Trafford on July 3rd. However, even just a few weeks at a county is likely to benefit Kohli’s preparation for the Tests and every single county would line up to sign him even if his time would be short.
As former captain Dev said, whether Kohli can get Test runs in England is the one question left for him to answer and it seems obvious to not only Indian legends like Dev that a spell in county cricket would be beneficial but also to Kohli himself. Whether or not he does remains to be seen.