Mumbai: While there have been mixed reactions from some quarters of England cricket about Virat Kohli playing County Cricket ahead of India’s tour of England, Graeme Swann has wholeheartedly supported the move, before adding that he will be “a bit nervous about Virat as an England fan”.
Although India will play Afghanistan in a one-off Test in June, the Indian cricket team skipper has opted to play County Cricket to prepare for the gruelling series in England, skipping the Test against India’s Asian neighbours.
While Kohli has enjoyed solid success in other parts of the world in Test, England had been his achilles heel. During India’s tour of 2014 to England, Kohli could only score 134 runs in 5 Tests, with a best score of 39.
Keen to avoid such showing as India begin their England sojourn in July, Kohli will be playing for Surrey throughout June.
“I think he will (have a good tour). Unless he plays against Jimmy or Broady in county games, I don’t think (it will help) because they’re so much better than the county bowlers,” said Swann during an ESPNcricinfo event in Mumbai on Wednesday.
“But I think it’s good. I think it’s good that English cricket allowed foreign players to come over and train before (a tour). One of the worst things about cricket is when teams go overseas against such poor oppositions before a Test series. Just to aid the home team win the Test series. I think if we’re serious about keeping Test cricket and making it the most beautiful game in the world, when foreign teams tour, they should get the best possible opposition before a Test series. They should play champion county teams. I think it’s good Virat’s been given a chance to go play for Surrey. He’ll enjoy Surrey trust me. The wickets at the Oval are unbelievable to bat on,” added the former England off-spinner.
While the Test series promises to be a tough battle for both the teams, a lot of eyes will also be on the battle within battle – Kohli vs Joe Root – between two of the best modern-day batsmen.
When asked who would be Swann’s pick for the upcoming Test series, Swann chose Root ahead of Kohli.
“In England, I would back Root over Kohli right now. It makes me a bit nervous as an England fan that Virat’s coming early to play for Surrey. For me, Root is the best batsman we’ve ever produced in England. I’m most disappointed that he’s the captain because I think he’s one of those players, if they’d left him not as the captain, and just said: Joe you should bat wherever you want to bat, average 60 in Test cricket, win Test and we’ll find someone else as a skipper. I think they’ve given him responsibility. He’s a good skipper, everyone loves him, don’t get me wrong. I loved Joe when he first played in India all those years ago. He was young with a babyish face, he was always laughing and cracking jokes. I think he was at his best then. Now he’s takes the game very seriously, something which Virat too does. It would be a head-on battle. At the minute, I’d back Joe to win that battle, but I’m a bit nervous about Virat. To be honest, I’d pay money to watch Virat bat. He is beautiful batsman to watch,” said Swann.
The ex-England cricketer-turned-commentator, who has 255 wickets from 60 Tests, said that while he enjoyed bowling to Kohli in the longer format of the game but not in One-day cricket.
“I enjoyed bowling to him a little bit. I didn’t enjoy bowling to him in One-day cricket…I’ll give you that...he’s so good in one-day cricket. At that time, he was still finding his feet in Test cricket. He’s a more complete player now. I would say that there are one or two players when you play against them…you kind of don’t mind them seeing them bat for a while and score a few runs because they’re that good-looking at the crease. Brian Lara was one. Virat is one. Ricky Ponting was one for me as well. It’s always nice to see the back of them. Thankfully, when you aren’t playing anymore, you want to see them bat for a bit longer,” concluded Swann.