Indian all-rounder Washington Sundar is likely to play for Lancashire in county cricket this season, subject to fitness and visa waiver, ESPNcricinfo has learned.
The 22-year-old Washington may be available for up to three County Championship matches, starting in July, and the entire Royal London Cup with 50 overs. He could become the second Indian to play England’s county cricket this season after Cheteshwar Pujara, who netted 720 runs in eight innings at a stunning 120 average for Sussex in the second division. Shreyas Iyer had signed up as Lancashire’s overseas player for the Royal London Cup in 2021, but was eventually forced to withdraw due to a shoulder injury.
Lancashire is currently third in the County Championship Division 1 points list, behind Surrey and Hampshire, with 108 points. They will resume red-ball cricket from June 26 with a clash against Gloucestershire after their Vitality Blast T20 games.
Washington is working his way back from a hand injury at the National Cricket Academy (NCA) in Bengaluru. The England red ball games will be the first in Washington since he suffered a finger injury during a three-day tour match against a County Select XI at Chester-le-Street in July 2021. The injury had sidelined him from that England tour and the second leg of IPL 2021.
Washington has had several setbacks since last year due to injury and illness. He was lining up to return to action for his state side Tamil Nadu in the 20-over Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy, but it is clear that the Indian team leadership had warned Tamil Nadu not to rush him to return to action.
He then made a successful return in the 50-overs Vijay Hazare Trophy, taking 16 wickets in eight matches against an economy of 4.77 in Tamil Nadu’s run to the final. It paved the way for his return to India, for a three-match ODI series in South Africa, but he had to miss that after testing positive for Covid-19.
Washington marked his comeback with all-around contributions at home in the ODI series against the West Indies, but that was also short-lived as he sustained a hamstring injury for the T20Is.
More recently, in IPL 2022, he injured his webbing twice and played just nine games for Sunrisers Hyderabad, scoring 101 runs and claiming six wickets. The franchise’s head coach, Tom Moody, pointed out that Washington and T Natarajan’s injuries shook the balance of the XI.
Washington’s appearance in Lancashire will clash with the Tamil Nadu Premier League (TNPL), which kicks off in Tirunelveli on June 23. Washington is with Salem Spartans in the TNPL, but it is clear that he did not participate in the side’s preparatory camp in Chennai.
The red ball games for Lancashire could be Washington’s chance to prove his form and fitness. Speaking on ESPNcricinfo’s analysis show T20 Time:Out during the IPL, former India coach Ravi Shastri spoke of Washington as a future all-rounder in all formats for India.
“He’s going to be one of India’s leading all-rounders,” Shastri had said. “He is the future. You have [Ravindra] Jadeja today. Three years later, if Jadeja is still fit, he will play. There is Axari [Patel] around. But this guy is your foremost all-rounder in all three formats of the game. Hear what I say. Three formats of the game.
“This man is a serious cricketer. He is very young, he needs to understand his own game, how good a player he is. The selection of shots will come, especially for the white ball format. [If he] working on his condition so that he is not prone to injury, India has a serious cricketer in him. In all formats of the game. I think it’s up to him to push his limits in terms of fitness. No excuses. He cannot depend on X, Y, Z. He has to look at himself in the mirror and say I want to work hard and be the leading all-rounder in Indian cricket for the next three years. And he can. Simple.”