Virat Kohli to skip County Cricket?

Virat Kohli’s decision to opt out of India’s first-ever Test against Afghanistan for a County stint seems to have created a sharp divide within the BCCI. While the cricket board officials seek the captain’s presence for the game, the Committee of Administrators (CoA), it is learnt, want Kohli to be have all-important game time in England before India’s series opening T20 game at Manchester on July 3.

India welcome Afghanistan to Test fold in Bangalore from June 14. The BCCI officials feel Kohli’s absence from the historic game would be “disrespectful” to the touring team.

“If a decision has been taken to allow the India captain to miss an international game and play County cricket at that point of time, it would set a very bad precedent. It would give a very bad message to the visiting Afghanistan team; that maybe the opponents aren’t worthy for us. It would be disrespectful to the Afghanistan team and also, it would be unfair on the broadcaster,” a cricket board official told The Indian Express, adding: “(Even if) he is playing in England at that time, he can come back for one Test and then fly back. And if he is so keen to play County cricket, has he sought permission to miss his IPL games?”

The CoA hasn’t received any communication yet from the BCCI officials, with regard to requesting Kohli about making himself available for the Afghanistan Test. According to a source close to the Supreme Court-appointed Committee, “nothing has come to them” and at this stage, “everything is hypothetical”. Also, it is very unlikely that the CoA would make such a request to Kohli. “These players will be sent (to England) in advance to acclimatise. Six to seven players are going in advance,” the source said.

CoA’s assurance
CoA head Vinod Rai had earlier assured that India would put up a strong side against Afghanistan, while describing the preparation programme for the England tour as “macro-level planning”. Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma are playing for Yorkshire and Sussex respectively from the start of the County season, while R Ashwin might return to play for Worcestershire after the IPL.

Test specialists Ajinkya Rahane, Murali Vijay and a few others would be part of Rahul Dravid’s India A squad, scheduled to play some first-class fixtures in England, against counties and England Lions, in June. The CoA, in consultation with the Indian team management, Dravid and chief selector MSK Prasad, finalised the arrangement last month.

Talking to the reporters in Kolkata yesterday, the Afghanistan Cricket Board CEO Shafiq Stanikzai, however, had said they would “miss” playing against Kohli. “We lived this dream to play this first Test against India in India. That moment has come true. Virat is a world cricket icon, something our players will miss the exposure playing against.”

Incidentally, Star India has recently bought the global consolidated rights to Indian cricket for the period between 2018-2023, with a bid of Rs 6,138 crore. The Afghanistan Test would be the first match on their roster.

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