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IND vs ENG, 2024: Who could stand up in the absence of Virat Kohli during first two Tests

England tour of India 2023-24: Virat Kohli withdraws his name from first two tests against England. Who are the potential replacements of Kohli?

India vs England, 2023-24: Virat Kohli to miss first two test matches due to personal reasons | Walking Wicket (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)
Virat Kohli to miss first two test matches due to personal reasons (Images: ©BCCI/Twitter)

After pace spearhead Mohammed Shami, the Rohit Sharma-led side faced another significant blow as veteran India batter and former skipper Virat Kohli has withdrawn from the first two Tests of the upcoming five-Test series against England, citing personal reasons.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah, in a media statement issued on Monday afternoon, stated, “Virat Kohli has requested the BCCI to be withdrawn from the first two Tests of the upcoming Test series against England, citing personal reasons.”

The Men in Blue will miss the services of Kohli for the first two tests, who has emerged as the backbone of the Indian cricket team, playing many match-winning knocks for the country throughout his career. His absence will lead to a few potential challenges in the first two tests as the hosts lack experience in the middle order. When you look at his stats, the right-handed batter has proven his worth, showing his prowess with the bat across formats, racking up 729 runs in just 14 innings at an average of 52.07, including a couple of centuries.

In the recently concluded Test series against South Africa in the rainbow nation, all the young guns, including southpaw Yashasvi Jaiswal (50 runs in four innings), Shubman Gill (74 runs in four innings), Shreyas Iyer (41 runs in four innings), displayed a disappointing show. Hence, finding a perfect replacement for the stalwart has become a major challenge for the team management and the captain. And it became a more serious issue when other senior batters like Rohit Sharma, all-rounders Ravindra Jadeja and Ravichandran Ashwin didn’t have a great time with the willow. 

So, let’s just delve into the problem and discuss the strong contenders to replace Virat Kohli for the first two tests. 

KL Rahul

Coach Rahul Dravid has explicitly stated that KL Rahul will play as a pure batter in the series; there is a huge probability that BCCI will not announce Kohli’s replacement for the first two tests and continue with the options they have in their arsenal. In case, they do announce, there are good chances that the player will not feature in the playing XI.

Since his comeback from injury in Asia Cup 2023, the right-hand wicket-keeper batter KL Rahul’s numbers are fabulous in both, ODIs and Tests. In the South Africa series, Rahul smashed his eighth century (101) in the first Test and had a decent outing in the rainbow nation with an average of 37.66. His record in home tests is also magnificent, scoring 923 runs in 16 innings at an average of 40.13, including his best score of 199, which came against the England side in 2016.

The only thing that goes against him is that he lacks the experience of batting in the middle order in the red ball format at home, and all these runs have come as an opener. Although he has played a lot of matches as a number four or five batter in the white-ball format before.

India A vs New Zealand A_ Rajat Patidar scored 319 runs at an average of 106.33 from three Tests against New Zealand A _ Walking Wicket (Photo_ ©BCCI_KSCA)
Patidar has hit back to back tons against England Lions (Photo: ©BCCI/KSCA)

Rajat Patidar

Rajat Patidar gave a remarkable performance for India A against the England Lions in the first unofficial Test in Ahmedabad last week, scoring a dogged 151 runs in the first innings where the whole team skittled out for 227 in 47 overs. Before that, he hit 111 in a two-day warm-up fixture against the same opponents.

The 30-year-old has formidable numbers in first-class cricket with 4000 runs in 55 matches at an average of 45.97, with 12 hundreds. His name came under the lights when he became the second-highest run-getter with 658 runs in nine innings at an average of 82.25, guiding Madhya Pradesh to conquer the Ranji Trophy in 2021-22. This included a match-winning hundred in the final against Mumbai.

Patidar was out of the action for nine months after suffering from a heel injury that required surgery. In December, he made his ODI debut on the tour of South Africa, where he also played the red-ball games for India A.

Ranji Trophy 2023-24_ Cheteshwar Pujara scored 243 against Jharkhand _ Walking Wicket (Photo_ ©X_Twitter)
Pujara scored 243 against Jharkhand in Ranji Trophy 2024 (Photo: ©X/Twitter)

Cheteshwar Pujara

Someone who carried the legacy of the legendary cricketer Rahul Dravid, who is renowned as the Wall, Cheteshwar Pujara continues to grind his way through the domestic season, becoming the only fourth Indian to achieve the 20,000 first-class runs landmark during the third round of the Ranji Trophy.

He began this season on a high with an unbeaten 243 against Jharkhand, his eighth double-ton in the competition, becoming the second batter with eight double centuries and then followed with scores of 49, 43, 43, and 66. Pujara will not only bring his form but also the experience of 103 Tests and batting in difficult situations, making him the strongest contender to replace the 36-year-old. He last featured in the WTC final against Australia last June, and his current form could work to his advantage.

India’s squad for the first two Tests: Rohit Sharma ©, Shubman Gill, Yashasvi Jaiswal, Virat Kohli, Shreyas Iyer, KL Rahul (WK), KS Bharat (WK), Dhruv Jurel (WK), Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Kuldeep Yadav, Mohd. Siraj, Mukesh Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah (VC), Avesh Khan


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