Surrey will always welcome Virat with open arms, says Alec Stewart

Debasis Sen, London: Virat Kohli’s much-hyped maiden county stint for Surrey had to be called off due to a neck injury post IPL but how much has the rest helped the Indian captain will only be discovered after the end of the Test series, said former England captain and county’s Director of Cricket Alec Stewart.

Interestingly, Stewart, who is the Director of Cricket for Surrey County had played pivotal role in getting Kohli to sign his maiden county contract, where he was supposed to play three four day games during the months of May and June.

“I think it was disappointing for everyone that Virat did not come and play for Surrey. He signed a contract and he was supposed to come and play for a month. But it was sad and somewhat unfortunate that he was unable to play for us because of the neck injury. It was not only disappointing for me and Virat but the millions of fans the world over. Possibly in the future we might see him playing with Surrey,” said Stewart to Xtra Time.

He further added, “It was a big blow for everyone but at the same time injuries happen in a professional sport. I had a word with him (Virat) and he was bitterly disappointed when the neck injury flared up and truly understood the reason. I spoke to the BCCI and they were very apologetic. I fully understand injuries happen to any sportsman. As I said moving forward if there is a possibility ever arise again where he is available to come and play for Surrey we will certainly entertain that fact.”

Talking about Virat’s knock in Edgbaston, Stewart feel, “His knock in the first innings at Edgbaston was outstanding. It just showed his world-class qualities. There was no one within that Indian team who was ready to stay with him at the crease and the fact that he was able to bat the way he did was a real testimony of his hard work.  He learnt from his mistakes when he toured this country the last time and rectified his mistakes and that to me was the hallmark of a great player.  I expect to see a few more such innings from him in this series.”

The former England wicketkeeper is also impressed about the change in technique that Virat brought about in his game.

“The biggest difference I have seen him in his technique is that he is willing to stay out of his crease, not allowing the ball to move as much. He is also playing the ball under his eyeline and playing it later whereas on his previous tour he was playing too far away and allowing the ball to move away.  He is now playing with softer hands so that the ball does not carry to the slip cordon. The fact that he has worked hard on his technique is paying dividends,” said Stewart.

As a Director of Cricket in Surrey, Stewart is very pleased to see the emergence of Ollie Pop and Sam Curran. Both are in their twenties and the selection committee chairman Ed Smith has given them a perfect opportunity early on in their careers. They have the talent to be successful in international cricket. Both Micheal Di Vinueto and Vikram Solanki have both worked with them.

“Sam has all the credentials to be a genuine all-rounder. He is hard worker and a quick learner and he has given enough evidence of what he is capable at Edgbaston. Pop’s got old head on young shoulders. He has only played about 15 first-class games and he has already shown is qualities in the short span of time. He is also a quick learner and works hard on what he is good at. To bat at No. 4 at the age of twenty with just 15 first class games behind is a real tribute to him. The selectors rate him as a fine prospect. It will be tough in test cricket but I am backing him to succeed having seen him closely since when he was 9 years old. It is a real pleasure to see him progress to test match level,” signed off Stewart.



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