India have been given a major blow ahead of the Test series against England as Virat Kohli has withdrawn from the first two Test matches, citing personal reasons. The BCCI announced this news on Monday afternoon, three days out from the first Test in Hyderabad.
Virat Kohli had arrived in Hyderabad on Saturday, but due to personal reasons, the 35-year-old won’t be available for the first two matches against Ben Stokes’ team, to be played in Hyderabad and Vizag.
A BCCI release stated, “Virat has spoken to Captain Rohit Sharma, the team management and the selectors and has emphasized that while representing the country has always been his top priority, certain personal situations demand his presence and undivided attention.
“The BCCI requests the media and fans to respect Virat Kohli’s privacy during this time and refrain from speculating on the nature of his personal reasons.”
Virat Kohli’s absence means that all three of Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, and KL Rahul will feature in the line-up, with KS Bharat donning the gloves. The BCCI selectors now need to name a replacement for Kohli for the first two Tests.
Here are 3 options BCCI are likely to consider as the replacement for Virat Kohli:
Is it finally the time and the opportunity that Sarfaraz Khan has been waiting for all his professional career? Will he get his maiden India Test call-up?
In 44 first-class matches, Sarfaraz Khan averages 68.2, which is the fourth-highest first-class average of all time across the world for batters who have played a minimum of 50 innings. How do the selectors continue to ignore such astounding numbers?
In his last three knocks against the England Lions, two of Sarfaraz’s scores were 96 and 55. He batted at number 4 against the England Lions.
While Rajat Patidar’s first-class average of 45 is not other-worldly like Sarfaraz’s, the Madhya Pradesh batsman has form on his side, having notched up two centuries, scores of 111 and 151, against the England Lions earlier this month.
Patidar has also proven his temperament with his success in the IPL. And even though one might feel that IPL experience shouldn’t matter much in Test squad selection, the BCCI selectors and the current management have picked players in the past in the Test team who have shown the temperament to handle the pressure and international bowlers in the IPL. Dhruv Jurel is the latest example of this.
Will Kohli’s absence open the door once again for Cheteshwar Pujara to return to the Test fold?
The 35-year-old Pujara, a veteran of 103 Tests, was dropped last year after the WTC Final. But he has started the Ranji Trophy 2024 on a solid note, scoring a double century (243*) against Jharkhand, followed by scores of 49, 43, 43, and 66. At the time of writing, Pujara is the leading run-scorer of the season with 444 runs in 5 innings.
Cheteshwar Pujara becomes the 4th Indian batter to 20,000 first-class runs 👏 pic.twitter.com/d7wdf3aIfy
— ESPNcricinfo (@ESPNcricinfo) January 21, 2024