Rahul Dravid understood the essence of County cricket at a very young age and became a better performer for Team India © PTI
Rahul Dravid understood the essence of County Cricket at a very young age and became a better performer for Team India © PTI

Every established player is comfortable playing at home. Familiar conditions enables a player to play his or her natural game without any fear. But the real test begins when you play abroad or in alien conditions. It tests the temperament and zeal of players and shows the world how much they are prepared to tackle their shortcomings. Players from different teams tend to shift to England’s famed County Cricket to play the swinging deliveries, try and get to understand the seam movements correct and become a better player for their national teams.  The Indian cricket team, has also seen more than  30+ players being represented in different teams playing in England’s domestic cricket.

At the start of their careers, players often get off to a good start but expose their weaknesses gradually. A good County stint enables them to make a comeback or become a better player. The likes of Sunil Gavaskar, Ravi Shastri, Javagal Srinath, Anil Kumble, Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly have all gone to represent different teams in the English county with the likes of Derbyshire, Lancashire, Surrey, Essex etc. All these players have legendary status and have proven their mettle when the chips were down for their country. It just goes on to show the importance of overseas domestic leagues and how it contributes to the development of a cricketer. A fitting example, showing the significance of County cricket will be India’s former captain Dravid. With a sound technique like Dravid who had all the cricketing shots in his armory, understood the importance of playing in County cricket and was able to perform better in overseas.

He was India’s most consistent performer with the willow whenever India toured abroad. His innings of 233 versus Australia in Adelaide and 270 against Pakistan in Rawalpandi are some of the best examples. At the start of the millennium year, Dravid made his county debut for Kent and in the second match got accustomed to the tough English conditions to score a propelling 182 for his side.  Slowly and steadily, Rahul Dravid was became the go-to-man when the team needed him in dire conditions abroad. He ended his dream career compiling 13,288 runs at a staggering average of 52.31.

World Cup winning captain, Dev also took part in the County whereas  Srinath and Zaheer Khan went the extra mile to practice bowling on wet, grassy pitches aiding the bowlers. This is the prime reason they spearheaded the pace attack for India and dominated batsmen. Zaheer signed for Worcestercshire and took 10 wickets in his debut match. He also took the first 9 wickets against Kent and took his bowling to different levels playing for Team India. A county stint teaches cricketers a lot. It gives them an insight of what to expect in tough and unfamiliar conditions.  The bowlers learn a lot more about their strengths and weaknesses. They learn the art of swing more effectively and can use it productively when donning the national colours. Batsmen tend to understand which ball to play and which to leave, which is a very important aspect especially in test cricket, by playing in good seaming and swinging conditions. In the recent past, there hasn’t been many from the Indian team to have represented County teams.

Ishant Sharma, after the famous Lord’s test win in 2014 tour of England, quickly responded in the negative when asked if he wants to play the County. He is India’s leading bowler in tests right now, but he has under-performed in the past. For him to become great rather than being confined as a decent bowler, he should sign up for any County team. This will not only enable them to bowl smartly but also master his troops properly. On the other hand, Murali Vijay looks a complete test player and looked good in England and Australia, but his contemporaries like Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Ravindra Jadeja highly need to play abroad as much as possible to improve.

Virat Kohli is an outstanding player but still didn’t score in India’s tour of England in 2014. One year with any County team can solve his problems of edging the ball outside off-stump, as was evident in England where he was bullied by James Anderson. Cheteshwar Pujara has been found short of confidence and had problems with the in-swinging balls but has played for Derbyshire and Yorkshire and got into the groove by the end of his stint. A more brief stint will make him a better and mature player to face the likes of Anderson, Stuart Broad, Tim Southee etc.

These days’ players go for more cash rich  cricketing competitions like Big Bash League (BBL) and Indian Premier League (IPL) without thinking twice. No doubt these big tournaments have their own advantages but the advantage of a County stint should also not be overlooked. If the current bunch of players from Team India needs to excel, especially in Tests abroad where they have been found wanting, they have to face such conditions more often than not and not try and escape from them. Till then, we may win it all at home but lose matches on overseas soil.

(Aditya Sahay is a journalist with CricketCountry.com who is completely into sports and loves writing about cricket in general. He can be followed on Twitter at adisahay7)