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Why Is Bob Willis Against Kohli Playing County Cricket?

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2018-03-31 16:01:32

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Former England fast bowling great Bob Willis has commented that Virat Kohli should not be allowed to play county cricket as it will help him prepare for the India-England series that follows. Willis said “Kohli should be made to suffer 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’. He added that "I can't stand overseas players in county cricket. It doesn't benefit the players stranded in the second XI year on year and the youngsters. The only way to improve our Test team is to have as many England-qualified players playing in the County Championship as possible.”

The timing and content of this outburst is directly related to the India-England series. But Willis is perhaps allowing his patriotism to cloud his judgment about cricket and its development as a game that is increasingly transcending boundaries. He is also forgetting the tradition – something which the Brits are otherwise so snobbish about – of foreign players playing in county cricket that goes back a long time and is not something just being started to accommodate Virat Kohli.

As far back as 1981, Clive Lloyd, Vivian Richards, Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Javed Miandad, Imran Khan, Richard Hadlee and Clive Rice played for one or the other county side. In fact, Indians have normally shied away from the English county cricket, with Faroukh Engineer and Bishan Singh Bedi being the only ones who have played more than 100 county matches. Ravi Shastri played 60 and Kapil Dev 40 matches. The other appearances, like that of Sunil Gavaskar, Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and VVS Laxman, were nothing to write home about. Hence, Willis’ tirade against Kohli is misplaced. The best players of most countries have played in English county cricket and there is no doubt young cricketers in England have gained much by rubbing shoulders with and taking tips from, these great players.

Most of these players have gone as guest performers and they do not harm the careers of young English players. Even the IPL in India allows each team to play up to four overseas players. As a result of this, there has been a dramatic uplift in the techniques of foreign players when it comes to playing spin. So should India feel threatened about losing matches and stop these great players from entertaining the crowds and giving tips to younger Indian members of the side they play for? It doesn’t work that way any longer.

Cricket has become an international game and every player has the right to play in any country, championship or league of his choice as long as that country’s law permits it. If Kohli’s technique improves as a result of his county stint, cricket will be richer. Willis and England should not worry about losing. The Indian team is not only about Kohli. If they have the players who can work as a team, England can play competitively to beat India, despite Kohli. But one thing is certain – the current Indian team under Kolhi is full of players who play to win. England might well find it difficult to tackle them.