With debate brewing over whether India skipper Virat Kohli should have opted to play the one-off Test against Afghanistan instead of turning out for Surrey in the English county scene, former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar has questioned the very logic of hosting the Test ahead of the England tour.
“I feel the Afghanistan Test is wrongly scheduled. They (BCCI) should’ve concentrated more on the England tour. (I know that) the India ‘A’ team is going (to England).
“Of course, there is an FTP, there is a Test programme, and you have to adhere to it. But then, this is a Test match. You can’t take it lightly. This is Afghanistan’s first match, and they must be very keen to establish themselves at the international level,” Vengsarkar said here on Friday while launching a cricket event organised by the School Games Federation of India (SGFI).
The Afghanistan Test is scheduled from June 14-18 in Bangalore, while India’s England tour begins in July, with the first Test on August 1. However, Vengsarkar, who has the rare distinction of slamming three Test hundreds at the iconic Lord’s cricket ground, backed Kohli’s call to gain county experience over playing the one-off Test. “It’s a good decision. He will get time to acclimatise to the conditions. The last tour wasn’t very good for him. So it (the county stint) is very critical for him. So he’s very keen to be there early, which is a good thing,” said the 62-year-old.
Vengsarkar said it “defied logic” that Pujara would return from his ongoing Yorkshire stint for the Test. “If I was a selector, I would’ve asked (Cheteshwar) Pujara also to stay back and play county cricket because these are the guys who’re going to play in England. Playing in India against Afghanistan, for the time, makes no sense. Pujara’s coming back from England to play Afghanistan defies logic because he was playing in county cricket, where, at the moment, he isn’t very consistent. So, he would’ve got more chances to play in England, scored runs and got into the groove,” said Vengsarkar.
Nevertheless, he was pleased with the itinerary of the England tour, which begins with the limited-overs games before the Tests and allows India’s cricketers to feature for India ‘A’ against their English counterparts. There’s also a tour game scheduled against Essex before the first Test.
“If you see the itinerary of the previous tours, I think this is a good itinerary, because you’ve got enough games to play before the first Test. So, the players get time to acclimatise to the conditions. So, it’s a good thing. If you see the last tour against South Africa, you hardly got any match in the lead-up to the first Test. So, the England tour is nicely scheduled,” he said.
Kohli endured a horrible tour to England last time, averaging 13.50 in 10 innings. Vengsarkar, however, expects the classy batsman to better that record this time. “I think he’s the best batsman in the world at the moment. In the last four years, he’s established himself as the No. 1 batsman in the world. So we expect a lot of things from him. Of course, the England tour will be ‘the tour’ for him. I’m sure he’ll do well,” he said.
India have been thrashed 4-0 and 3-1 in their previous two tours to England, but Vengsarkar expects them to do well this time, as he feel that they have a decent pace attack. “I expect a lot from the Indian team on the tour of England… simply because we’ve got fast bowlers now, and a lot of options in fast bowlers, which wasn’t the case before. It’s a good thing for Indian cricket. We’ve a balanced team. Since our pacers are very good at the international level, we should be able to win,” he said.