3 contenders to replace Virat Kohli in India’s squad for the IND vs ENG first two Tests

3 contenders to replace Virat Kohli in India's squad for the IND vs ENG first two Tests
Virat Kohli (Image Credit: Twitter)

India suffered a major setback ahead of the Test series against England on January 22 as Virat Kohli pulled out of the first two Tests due to personal reasons. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) immediately confirmed that Kohli would not play and promised to announce his replacement as soon as the Test series begins on January 25.

Virat Kohli reached Hyderabad on Saturday. Yet, due to personal reasons, the 35-year-old will not be available for the first two matches to be played in Hyderabad and Vizag against Ben Stokes’ team.

“Virat has spoken to captain Rohit Sharma, team management, and selectors and has emphasized that representing the country has always been his top priority, but certain personal situations demand his presence and full attention,” a BCCI release stated.

“The BCCI requests media and fans to respect Virat Kohli’s privacy during this time and avoid speculating on the nature of his reasons.”

Virat Kohli’s absence means that Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, and KL Rahul will join all three line-ups, while KS Bharat will be handed over the reins. The BCCI selectors will now have to name a replacement for Kohli for the first two Tests.

Here are 3 batsmen that BCCI can consider as Virat Kohli’s replacement:

Rajat Patidar

Rajat Patidar, a stylish right-handed batsman, is another contender for Kohli’s slot. In a pre-tour match against England Lions, Patidar had impressed by scoring 111 runs while opening the innings for India A. The 30-year-old displayed his red-ball ability during the first unofficial Test against England Lions and saved India A from a precarious position at 95/7 with a remarkable century. Patidar’s counter-attacking cricket under pressure helped him score a century in just 94 balls, scoring 151 runs with the help of 19 fours and five sixes.

While Rajat Patidar has a first-class average of 45, which is not as unique as Sarfaraz, the Madhya Pradesh batsman scored two centuries against England Lions earlier this month with scores of 111 and 151. With abundant experience in first-class cricket, 4,000 runs in 55 matches at an average of 45.97, including 22 fifties and 12 centuries, presents a strong case for consideration in the absence of Patidar Kohli.

Patidar has also proved his mettle with his success in the IPL. And even though one feels that the experience of IPL does not matter much in the selection of the Test team, the BCCI selectors and the current management have in the past picked such players in the Test team, who have shown a passion for handling pressure and international bowlers. Ipl. Dhruv Jurel is the latest example.

Sarfaraz Khan

Has the time and opportunity finally come that Sarfaraz Khan has been waiting for throughout his professional career? Will he get his first India Test call-up?

In 44 first-class matches, Sarfaraz Khan averages 68.2, which is the fourth-highest first-class average worldwide for batsmen who have played a minimum of 50 innings. How do selectors keep ignoring such astonishing figures?

In his last three innings against the England Lions, Sarfaraz had two scores of 96 and 55. He batted at number 4 against the England Lions.

Cheteshwar Pujara

Will Kohli’s absence pave the way for Cheteshwar Pujara to return to the Test team once again?

At the forefront of the race for this coveted spot is veteran batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who has been out of India’s Test squad since the 2023 World Test Championship final due to consistently poor performances. Missing the squad against England, Pujara showed his adaptability and class in domestic matches. Notably, he recently scored an impressive half-century against Vidarbha and crossed the 20,000 first-class run milestone – a feat achieved by only three others in Indian cricket history.

The 35-year-old Pujara, a veteran of 103 Tests, was dropped after the WTC final last year. But he has made a solid start to the Ranji Trophy 2024 by scoring a double century (243*) against Jharkhand, after which he scored 49, 43, 43, and 66. His unbeaten 243 off 356 balls prompted Saurashtra to declare the innings at 578/4, emphasizing their efficiency against the spinners and accuracy in shot execution.

Pujara is the highest run-scorer of the season with 444 runs in 5 innings. Pujara’s brilliant performance makes him stand as a strong contender to fill in Kohli’s place.

As India looks to fill the void left after Kohli’s return, the selectors and skipper Rohit Sharma have interesting options in Pujara’s experience and Patidar’s recent red-ball heroics. A fresh face will undoubtedly take charge of India’s batting lineup in the upcoming Test against England.

Also Read: IND vs ENG: 8 players to watch in the Test series

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