Virat Kohli Joins Surrey: Will He Fare Better Than Pujara?

Indian batsman and Captain Virat Kohli plays a shot during the third day of the third test match between South Africa and India at Wanderers cricket ground on January 26, 2018 in Johannesburg. / AFP PHOTO / GIANLUIGI GUERCIA (Photo credit should read GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Virat Kohli Joins Surrey: Will He Fare Better Than Pujara?

India’s captain Virat Kohli announced a deal with Surrey that will see him represent “the Rey” in June. He will be able to play in both the Specsavers County Championship and the Royal London One Day Cup. Kohli will join Cheteshwar Pujara (Yorkshire), Ishant Sharma (Sussex) and Varun Aaron (Leicestershire), as several Indian players have flocked to England’s domestic circuit in anticipation of India’s tour later this year.

Kohli’s reason for joining Surrey is simple: to help him assimilate and acclimatise to English conditions before India’s Test series there. Last time Kohli played in a Test series in England, he was remarkably underwhelming. He scored 134 runs across all five Tests at a corresponding average of just 13.40.

A county stint with Surrey would no doubt help him get used to playing on green pitches and would allow him to tweak his technical game to help him cover up a previous weakness against the moving ball.

By letting Kohli go to London, India seem to have learnt from their vital mistake in South Africa. Prior to their Test tour of South Africa earlier this year, a decision was made by the BCCI to cancel their warm up matches against local sides. Their reasoning was that the pitches they would be playing on would not be representative of the ones that the internationals would be played on – meaning that there was ultimately no reason to partake in those shorter games.
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However, that decision was one which they no doubt eventually regretted as India lost the first two Tests but won the third. It is not easy for a team to settle down quickly in foreign conditions, but the BCCI are giving Kohli the best possible opportunity to do so.

Will He Fare Better Than Pujara? 

India’s Test number three, Cheteshwar Pujara, has been playing for Yorkshire and has struggled. The Indian international star has played in three County Championship matches for Yorkshire and has only managed a high score of 41.

Overall, he has scored 86 runs in six innings – averaging a very pitiable 14.3.

This has been bizarre to see, bearing in mind that Pujara’s Test average is over fifty and that he was India’s highest run scorer in Test cricket last year. There is no doubt that the standard of Division One County Cricket is high, but Pujara should certainly be performing better.

Reflecting upon this begs the question of whether Kohli will have an equally tough time. Everyone has been praising Kohli’s County stint as fantastic initiative, but there is a chance that it may achieve little for him like it has done for Pujara so far.
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There is one key difference, though, between Kohli and Pujara’s County stints; which is that Kohli will also be playing in the Royal London One Day Cup. Kohli is certainly the best batsman in the world in limited overs cricket and has proven that he is capable of scoring freely against the white ball in England in the past.

Thus, by playing these matches as a way of almost warming up for the red ball, it will give Kohli confidence and form to carry onto his red ball cricket.

No matter how many runs Kohli scores, his mere presence will be a huge boost to the County Championship. He is guaranteed to draw in large crowds wherever he goes and will give English domestic cricket a larger presence on the international stage.

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