India batsman initially set to be available for three games but it could be extended
Vihari, an India Test regular, does not have an IPL deal and is expected to be available for at least three LV= Insurance County Championship games. The BCCI is understood to have agreed the deal in the hope that his experience in the county game will prove beneficial ahead of the World Test Championship final, which is scheduled to be played in Southampton in June, and India’s five-Test tour of England that follows.
Warwickshire had originally signed Malan, the South Africa top-order player, for the entire season. But with South Africa currently categorised as a “red list” country by the UK government, he has been unable to obtain a visa at this stage. Even if he does, he will be obliged to spend time in quarantine before becoming available, meaning it is unlikely he will play before May. With that in mind, there seems every chance Vihari’s stay could be extended.
While Warwickshire have not confirmed the approach to Vihari, an official at the BCCI did appear to do so.
“Yes, Vihari will be playing for Warwickshire this season,” Press Trust of India quoted an unnamed BCCI official as saying. “He would play a few games. He is already in England now. He will play a minimum of three games. We are trying to figure out if there is a chance to play a few more. With a curtailed domestic season this time [in India] and Vihari being a part of the Test side, he needs match practice.
“All his other Test colleagues are part of the IPL teams. Even if it’s white ball games, they will be fit and match-ready. But we need to ensure that Vihari also gets game time before the England tour. It’s not just one World Test Championship final but it’s followed by a full-fledged five-Test series. We need him ready.”
While ESPNcricinfo understands Vihari is not yet in the UK – and will not, therefore, be available for Warwickshire’s opening game of the season against Derbyshire – it is understood the process between obtaining a visa and being available to play could be as little as six days. The process for Malan is understood to take around 17 days from the moment a visa is granted. Neither man has a visa at this stage.
Other India players such as Cheteshwar Pujara, R Ashwin, Ishant Sharma, M Vijay and Axar Patel have all had spells in the county game in recent times, while Virat Kohli signed for Surrey in 2018 but was obliged to pull out due to injury. Shreyas Iyer has also signed to play for Lancashire in the 50-over competition, although his fitness is uncertain after requiring shoulder surgery.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo