Indian cricketers keen to rekindle their bond with County Cricket

Cheteshwar Pujara has spent some quality time with Nottinghamshire this year
©Reuters
 

It certainly won't be a hyperbole to say that the game of cricket undergoing significant changes right from the advent of day/night test matches to countless franchise based Twenty20 leagues popping-out every now and then. It is a time when national loyalties are fading away and test match cricket has for the country has taken the backseat.

As far as the Indians are concerned, they've enjoyed a successful time in test match cricket ever since Virat Kohli took over as the captain of the Indian side. The Indian test side looks more or less settled with the likes of Shikhar Dhawan and Lokesh Rahul piling on the runs. Of late, Lokesh Rahul ended up notching seven consecutive 50+scores. The middle order looks packed with the likes of Cheteshwar Pujara, skipper Virat Kohli, and Ajinkya Rahane scoring heavily to supplement the good work done by the top order. The lower order is no less efficient in adding impetus by going for quick runs. The likes of Jadeja and Saha can swing the willow quite effectively.

The bowling line-up looks settled as well. The pace battery comprising  Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav, and Mohammad Shami can wreak havoc against any given opposition when they're on song. The spin Duo of Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja have the ability to run through the opposition's batting order. Ashwin has 292 scalps against his name from 53 matches in test cricket. (till November 23,2017) We'll have to count him amongst the modern-day greats.

But the fact that these players have struggled to replicate their success outside the subcontinent throws light on the fact that there's a lack of exposure when it comes to performing overseas. When the Indians toured England in 2014, the batsmen were seen running for cover against the ferociously swinging 'red cherry'. As the red cherry swung in England, the batsmen found it difficult to counter the swing, getting trapped outside the off stump. India's star batsman Virat Kohli failed to register a single 50+ score as the Indians succumbed to a 3-1 series loss with a solitary victory at Lord's being the only saving grace.

 For almost a decade now, the cash rich Indian Premier League (IPL) has acted as a player's ticket to the national side, but before these franchise-based leagues came into the picture, it was county cricket that attracted some of the best players from India to hone their skills. Before the riches of the IPL, county cricket in England offered decent monetary rewards to cricketers. It further gave them an opportunity to face some quality bowlers in seaming conditions.

In the early 2000s, almost all the players, including the fabulous four (Tendulkar, Dravid, Laxman, and Ganguly) had stints with English county sides. A young Sachin Tendulkar played a few matches for Yorkshire, becoming the first Indian to play for the 'White Rose' county. Ganguly had a stint with Lancashire in 2003. He again signed up, this time with Glamorgan in 2005. Rahul Dravid had a stint with Kent in 2000. County cricket acted as an ideal finishing school where players got an opportunity to hone their skill sets and came roaring back into the national side.

Whenever a player encountered a slump in form, he used to fly all the way to England to ply his trade in the County Championship and other competitions. This is what Saurav Ganguly did really well while playing for Glamorgan, during the Chappell era, when Ganguly was axed from the side, he played some vital knocks for Glamorgan which allowed him to regain his form and confidence as he came back into the Indian side on the back of these impressive performances.

In the pre-IPL, the summer used to be reserved for playing county cricket in England. Players used to get much needed exposure while playing in seaming conditions and the money paid to them was quite decent as well. The advent of IPL has deprived the present generation of the pleasure of playing in seeming conditions. The glamour and charm of IPL seems too formidable to be disrupted.

But surprisingly, the Indians appear interested in rekindling their relationship with county cricket. Cheteshwar Pujara has spent some quality time with Nottinghamshire this season. He notched-up some impressive scores while playing at Trent Bridge. He has also had stints with Yorkshire and Derbyshire in the past and his return to form can be credited to the time he spent in county cricket. Ravi Ashwin also Of late, the short pitch delivery has caused immense problems and the Indians have also found it difficult to come to terms with the swinging deliveries outside the off stump. Virat Kohli, in particular, struggled profoundly against the English seamers during his last trip to England in 2014. A season or two with an English county can help him get a taste of seaming conditions. Virat Kohli revealed his keenness to play county cricket in order to kickstart his preparations for the upcoming tour of England in 2018.

A big problem that doesn't allow the Indians to participate in the county circuit is their jam-packed schedule. They are set to tour South Africa during the winter. The tour would then be followed by the IPL and what follows the IPL is a long tour of England which would begin in July and end in September. Such a long and tiresome schedule would allow less room for the Indians to participate in county cricket.

Gulraj Bedi

 
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