Virat Kohli cementing his India legacy with Surrey stint in England

Virat Kohli will be spending June in Surrey colors while skipping an India Test against the new boys from Afghanistan. (AFP)
Updated 07 May 2018
0

Virat Kohli cementing his India legacy with Surrey stint in England

LONDON: A recent article in London’s Evening Standard pondered what Virat Kohli would make of playing at English outposts such as Scarborough and Guildford, with the likes of Steve Patterson and Tim Groenewald bowling at him. With his arrival at Surrey, he will soon find out — and the English press cannot wait.
It has been one of cricket’s worst-kept secrets over the past month — Kohli will be spending June in Surrey colors while skipping a Test against the new boys from Afghanistan. Of course, not everyone is thrilled by the move.
Bob Willis, who made his name at The Oval with Surrey before switching allegiances to Warwickshire, told Sky Sports: “He should be made to suffer and average 30 in England as he has done before. We don’t want England starting to lose Test matches at home because we’re accommodating all of these visiting players.”
There are many in India also ready to question the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) allowing its captain to miss a historic Test match.
But Vinod Rai, who heads the Committee of Administrators (CoA), which is tasked with overseeing the board’s functions, was in no doubt that the right call had been made.
“Afghanistan are playing against India, and not Virat Kohli,” he said. “No player will be called back from the UK to play against Afghanistan. The priority is England and to do well there, so ... whatever it takes.
“CoA has taken a conscious decision to encourage the players, especially Test specialists, to play county cricket in England and hone their skills for the series there.”
Ever since Kohli expressed an interest in playing county cricket during England’s tour of India in late 2016, Surrey have been contemplating such a coup. And contrary to popular belief, they have not had to break the bank to fund it. Since the Indian board, or sections of it at least, were keen for the captain to acclimatize to English conditions, Kohli will only be paid “nominal” match fees for the six games he ends up playing — three in the County Championship and three in the 50-over arena.

 

 It represents quite a turnaround for Indian cricket and the way it treats its marquee players. Go back seven years to the summer of 2011, and you would find a group of Indian players who were utterly exhausted. They had played two series against New Zealand and Australia, drawn a series away in South Africa and then won a World Cup on home soil. Five days later, the Indian Premier League (IPL) began.
Four players asked the board for some time off during the IPL. They were refused, curtly. Two of these beasts of burden subsequently broke down on the tour of England, where India, ranked No.1 in the Test rankings at the time, were routed four-nil. Three years later, they won a famous victory at Lord’s, thanks to Ishant Sharma — currently turning out for Sussex — but then slumped to three straight defeats.
Once the ball started to nip around under overcast skies at Old Trafford and The Oval, India had no answers. M.S. Dhoni, with his unorthodox technique, was India’s best batsman in those games, as those with lofty reputations came a cropper in conditions they had seldom been exposed to.
It is not as though India’s batting legends of the past enjoyed lengthy county stints. But Sunil Gavaskar’s lone season at Somerset, Mohammad Azharuddin’s time in Derby, Sachin Tendulkar’s Yorkshire summer and Rahul Dravid’s Kent sojourn undoubtedly added to their craft and discipline. Kohli, paid 170 million rupees ($2.5 million) per season in the IPL, has similar improvement in mind as he looks forward to a month in south London.
There was a time when many, especially those in the UK, questioned India’s commitment to Test cricket, especially during the early years of the IPL. Kohli is the poster boy of the IPL generation, and his decision to follow up a draining season with a month on the county treadmill is proof of just how acutely conscious of his ever-growing Test legacy for India he really is.

FASTFACTS

Kohli's woes in England

Virat Kohli has struggled to perform in English conditions. During the 2014 tour of England, he managed just 134 runs from five Tests at an average of 13.40 without crossing the 50-mark even once in the series.


Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

Updated 19 February 2019
0

Naomi Osaka shocked as Kristina Mladenovic downs world No. 1 in Dubai

  • It was Osaka's first match since she won the Australian Open — her second consecutive Grand Slam title.
  • World No. 67 Mladenovic lost for words after surprise win.

DUBAI: Naomi Osaka stumbled badly in her first match since winning the Australian Open as the world number one went down in a flurry of errors to exit the Dubai Championships on Tuesday.
Dubai-based Frenchwoman Kristina Mladenovic claimed a 6-3, 6-3 victory to reach the third round as Osaka made 25 unforced errors.
The rout, which featured seven breaks of the Osaka serve, took barely an hour, sending Mladenovic into a Wednesday contest with Carla Suarez Navarro.
“This is my home tournament, I live here,” world No. 67 Mladenovic said. “It’s great to get a win like this in front of a big crowd.
“Beating the number one is always special.”
The second set was riddled with seven consecutive breaks of serve before Mladenovic finished off the job with a winner to the empty court on match point.
Osaka stunned the tennis world last week by announcing her split from coach Sascha Bajin despite winning back-to-back Grand Slam titles at the US and Australian Opens.
She said earlier this week that she would not prioritize “success over happiness” when asked about the sacking, and she never looked like winning in Dubai as she also served five double faults.
Earlier on Tuesday, Simona Halep and Petra Kvitova both won their opening matches, while Elina Svitolina made a strong start to her bid for a third straight title.
Kvitova, the 2013 winner, recovered from losing a first-set tiebreak to defeat Katerina Siniakova 6-7 (3/7), 6-4, 6-4 and squeeze into the third round.
Halep, Dubai champion in 2015, saw off 2014 Wimbledon finalist Eugenie Bouchard 7-6 (7/4), 6-4.
The Romanian said she is still feeling the effects of her weekend final defeat in Doha by Elize Mertens.
“It was a good match because I won it. I tried to finish the points faster because I’m a little bit tired,” Halep said.
“She played well, the level was pretty good. At some points I really ran very well. I’m confident. I feel good on court even if I’m tired.”
A third former world number one also advanced as Angelique Kerber beat Dalila Jakupovic 7-6 (7/4), 6-3.
Kvitova, Wimbledon champion in 2011 and 2014, said she was unfazed about the early midday start to her match.
“I don’t really care if I play the first match,” the Australian Open runner-up said. “Now I’m done, so I have a free afternoon.
“I’m not sure what I’m pleased with... maybe with my comeback at the end.”