Virat Kohli is missing Afghanistan Test ‘for a good cause’: BCCI

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The news of Virat Kohli playing county cricket to prepare himself for the Test series in England was received warmly, but now that he has signed up with Surrey, he will miss the one-off Test against Afghanistan, leaving Ajinkya Rahane to lead the Indian team.

When India’s squad for the Afghanistan Test – the country’s maiden match in the format –was announced on Tuesday 8 May, Kohli’s name was absent from the list for the historic occasion. Rohit Sharma, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were also given a break, while Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma, both of whom are currently playing in England, were named in the 15-strong squad.

The reason for Kohli choosing to play in England following the culmination of the Indian Premier League, where he is leading Royal Challengers Bangalore, is well known. He has played Test cricket in England only once before, in 2014, and tallied just 134 runs at an average of 13.40, well off his career average of 53.40.

Now, with India playing a full series – five Tests, three one-day internationals and three Twenty20 Internationals – in England in July-September, and two T20Is in Ireland before that, Kohli will spend a month playing red-ball as well as white-ball cricket for Surrey to get ready.

“Had that not been the case, we would not have considered and thereafter taken this decision to allow Virat as well as some others to give them a fair opportunity of acclimatising themselves in England. And basically, not for the shorter format but for the longer format,” said Amitabh Choudhary, the Acting Secretary of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, at the time of the squad announcement.

“So essentially the impression which might have gone around is wrong and our focus remains Test cricket. We continue to believe that it is one format which is not only the genesis of cricket in the world but is something that we need to nurse all the time.”

MSK Prasad, Chairman of the Senior Selection Committee, echoed the sentiment, saying that Kohli was sitting out of the Afghanistan Test “for a good cause”.

“Except Virat, the entire Test specialists are playing this match,” explained Prasad. “Virat is missing out for a good cause. He is going out so that he comes well prepared for the England Test series. It is always good that he goes there and performs well and he is very keen. He himself wants to do extremely well in English conditions. It is a great opportunity for us to win the series.”

Afghanistan, who along with Ireland earned Test status recently, will play the Test in Bangalore from 14 June, and Choudhary disagreed that Kohli’s absence will take anything away from the historic occasion.

“Any act has to be judged by the intention which precedes it,” said Choudhary. “There was no intention not to play. It was only because the English challenge is something which we have to rise to, to the satisfaction of the entire cricket fraternity of this country, that Virat will abstain for the right reasons.”

Interestingly, the Surrey County Cricket Club website has said that “Kohli will be available for all cricket throughout the month [of June] until the close of Surrey’s trip to Scarborough to face Yorkshire.” That match is scheduled to be played from 25 to 28 June. But Kohli has also been named captain of the Indian T20I side for the games in Ireland, which take place on 27 and 29 June, making his appearance doubtful in one of the two places.