India captain Virat Kohli will play county cricket for Surrey in June after agreeing an overseas player deal before his country’s summer Tour of England.
The right-handed batsman, 29, is set to feature in three County Championship matches and at least as many One-Day Cup games. There could be more appearances depending on whether Surrey progress in that 50 overs competition.
Kohli plays Indian Premier League cricket domestically for Royal Challengers Bangalore and captains that franchise, but this Twenty20 format ends on May 27. RC Bangalore have been IPL runners-up on three separate occasions but are off the pace for the play-offs this year, despite having prolific South African batsman AB de Villiers to supplement Kohli.
Some new online bookmakers go as big as 12/1 that Bangalore can win the league in 2018, while Kohli is odds-on with Paddy Power and Betfair to score the most runs for his team. He is the franchise’s record runscorer.
Ambition to be fulfilled
“It’s long been an ambition of mine to play county cricket,” Kohli told the BBC. “I’m thankful to [Director of Cricket] Alec Stewart and Surrey for allowing me the opportunity.”
Stewart, meanwhile, said he was “thrilled” to have signed Kohli for a month, adding: “Playing and training alongside Virat will be a massive benefit for our players.”
The 50 overs games Kohli is set to be involved with are trips to Kent and Middlesex and a home match with Glamorgan at The Oval. Surrey are best-price 10/1 chances with William Hill to win the One-Day Cup – behind the side that beat them in the final last year, Nottinghamshire, who are favourites.
Kohli’s County Championship assignments, meanwhile, are Hampshire and Yorkshire away either side of hosting Somerset in Guildford. Surrey are 100/30 second-favourites with BetVictor to win County Championship Division One with reigning champions Essex heading the market.
Missing Afghanistan encounter
Former England captain and Sky Sports pundit Bob Willis is unhappy with Kohli coming to England early and feels he “should not be allowed to play county cricket”. His choice is not without sacrifice, however, as the India skipper will miss their first-ever Test encounter with Afghanistan to play for Surrey.
The Indian Tour of England begins on July 3 with the first of three Twenty20 Internationals at Old Trafford. Other T20 games follow on July 6 in Cardiff and July 8 in Bristol.
There are then three One Day Internationals taking in Trent Bridge (July 12), Lord’s (July 14) and Headingley (July 17), before a five-Test series begins at Edgbaston on August 1. In between the limited overs games and Tests, India will also play a Tour match with Essex in Chelmsford.
Other Test venues are Lord’s, Trent Bridge, the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and The Oval. Whatever format of cricket he plays, Kohli averages over 50 for his country and he’ll look to surpass 2000 Twenty20 International runs against England. In the ODIs, meanwhile, he is just three boundaries short of 1000 (893 fours and 104 sixes).