India batsman initially set to be available for three games but it could be extended
Warwickshire have completed the signing of the India batsman Hanuma Vihari as their overseas player, after Pieter Malan, their original choice, ran into difficulties obtaining a visa.
Vihari, who has played 12 Tests, including three on India’s victorious tour of Australia earlier this year, does not have an IPL deal and is expected to be available for at least three LV= Insurance County Championship games.
He made his Test debut against England on their 2018 tour, while his highest score of 111 – his solitary Test century to date – came against West Indies in 2019. In his first-class career, Vihari has made 7,094 runs at 56.75 in 90 games, while he is also a part-time offspinner with 27 wickets to his name.
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.
“Hanuma will arrive in the UK this afternoon,” Warwickshire’s Director of Cricket, Paul Farbrace, said. “We hope that this gives time for him to do his six days quarantine and to feature in next week’s game versus Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge, subject to receiving negative COVID tests.
“He’s a high-quality batsman, and an effective off spinner, who has been part of two India Test series victories in Australia. But he also comes to Warwickshire with an outstanding record in the first-class game and our young batsman are going to learn a huge amount from playing and training with someone of Hanuma’s calibre.
“We’re also very grateful to Hanuma for stepping in at such short notice to cover Pieter Malan whilst we await confirmation of visa and his safe entry to the UK from South Africa.”
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.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity and to play for a big club like Warwickshire is really exciting,” Vihari said.
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