BY MARCUS HOOK
As I said a few weeks ago, the news of Virat Kohli joining Surrey would take time to sink in. That’s because India are reluctant to the point of being obstructive when it comes to clearing their stars to play in county cricket. So, as soon as it was known he’d picked up a neck injury in the IPL, the plug was pulled.
Obviously, it’s a blow to Surrey, who will be without an overseas player for the foreseeable, but it’s a bigger blow for county cricket at a time when “move along, nothing to see here until The Hundred kicks off in 2020” seems to be the message from the top.
It was heartening to see that a number of counties experienced their largest non-T20 crowds for years last Sunday, thanks to the glorious weather – which continued into Bank Holiday Monday.
However, with the Lord’s Test finishing a day early, there was no cricket to watch on Monday – anywhere. An oversight by the ECB, surely? Sadly not – it was exactly the same last year!
England’s crushing defeat to Pakistan highlighted how the marginalisation of the County Championship is damaging the Test team. That Jos Buttler was our best batsman raises questions about the form of the quality acts who, regardless of the faith shown in them, keep failing time after time.
After the match, the England coach Trevor Bayliss, said there weren’t many batsmen banging the door down demanding to be picked by sheer weight of runs. Not many? Only James Vince, Jimmy Adams, James Hildreth, Keaton Jennings and Joe Clarke, not to mention Surrey’s Ollie Pope and Rory Burns – and that’s just in Division One of the Championship.
But it’s hardly a surprise. At Surrey’s press day, Rory Burns told us that he has never been approached, formally or informally, by any member of the England hierarchy; not even the England Lions’ batting coach – ex-Surrey man Graham Thorpe.
Nevertheless, Burns still has hopes of playing international cricket one day. He said: “If it happens it happens. It’s disappointing to have not got a phone call at any stage, having scored over a thousand first-class runs four years in a row. But that’s down to them. I can only take care of what I can take care of.
“I probably need to score more hundreds, but I’ll just have to keep doing my thing and hopefully, at some stage, I’ll get picked for higher honours.”
Similarly, if Surrey are to reach a fourth Lord’s final in as many years they’ll have to keep doing what they have been doing and see how the dust settles. If they can carry on turning in performances like last Sunday’s, against Essex, they might yet sneak into play-off phase.
The return of Mark Stoneman, the only England batting casualty arising from the debacle at Lord’s, will boost their chances no end.