Monday, August 18, 2014

Not what County cricket is for, Michael !

On Test Match Special yesterday Michael Vaughan was discussing the tribulations of the Indian batsman Virat Kohli. He said that one of the reasons that Kohli, prolific on Indian wickets, had struggled badly in this series was that he was unfamiliar with English conditions and English wickets. This is surely true, but Vaughan's solution ought to have caused some furrowed brows at the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB). Vaughan suggested that Kohli should come and play a season in County Cricket. He was not, I think, joking - it was a perfectly serious suggestion. There then followed a discussion with fellow commentator Ed Smith on the subject with the latter saying how much a young Rahul Dravid felt that his game had benefited from his one year with Kent in 2000!

Now County Cricket has a long tradition of welcoming overseas players into its ranks. Indeed my biography subject the Bajan John Shepherd was one of the earlier examples with Kent and Gloucestershire in the 1970s and 1980s. Stars like Shep, Viv Richards, Richard Hadlee, Garry Sobers, Asif Iqbal and many others enriched our game. There was mutual benefit. But In those days there was loyalty as well. It was customary for an overseas player to commit himself to a County for many seasons. Mike Procter was so much part of Gloucestershire that they renamed the county "Proctershire"! 

What Rahul Dravid did, and what Vaughan is suggesting Kohli should do, is quite different from these examples from long ago. He is suggesting that Kohli should have a season (no more) at a "Northern County" to teach himself about the English game. There would be some mutual benefit, no doubt, if he learned quickly and scored well for (say) Yorkshire. But Vaughan was not arguing the case from Yorkshire's perspective but from the Indian batsman's. Is that what the County system is for? To help struggling foreign batsmen improve their game?

Every match that a Virat Kohli appeared for Yorkshire he would be taking a place from an England qualified player. Would Joe Root or Gary Ballance or other young English players have progressed if they had had a place in the Yorkshire batting order blocked by a Kohli? 

Finally it's worth pointing out how the employment of Virat Kohli by a County would be financed. None of the Counties has a viable business model without the substantial subsidy it  receives from the ECB. Cricket fans pay for these subsidies via the highest International match ticket prices in the world and via our Sky subscriptions - mandatory, and expensive - if we want to see live cricket on television. So in effect we England fans would be paying for Virat Kohli to improve his game so that he can perform better against us next time India tour! As Fred Trueman would have put it "World's gone mad"! 

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