The much-anticipated Test series between India and England is on the horizon, with the first Test scheduled to kick off on January 25 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad. However, a recent update has disappointed fans, as Virat Kohli, the former Indian captain, has withdrawn from the first two matches citing personal reasons.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has assured fans that the selectors will soon announce a replacement for Kohli, urging respect for the player’s privacy and discouraging speculation. While the official announcement is pending, let’s have a look at four players who could potentially fill the void left by Kohli in the first two Tests.
1. A rising star
Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB)‘s Rajat Patidar has been making waves in the first-class circuit, creating a compelling case for a Test call-up. Following his recent ODI debut in South Africa, Patidar showcased his form in the ongoing India-A vs. England Lions series, scoring a century in the warm-up game and an impressive 151 in the first unofficial Test in Ahmedabad. With a robust first-class average of 45.97, the 30-year-old could be a valuable addition to Team India.
2. A consistent performer in domestic arena
Mumbai batter Sarfaraz Khan might finally get his maiden national team call-up in the absence of Kohli. Boasting a remarkable first-class average of 68.20, which has soared to nearly 88 since 2022, Sarfaraz has been consistent in domestic cricket. His noteworthy contributions in the India-A vs. England Lions series, including a knock of 96 in the warm-up game, make him a strong contender to replace the Indian superstar.
3. The experienced campaigner
The experienced cricketer Cheteshwar Pujara, who was dropped from the Test team post the World Test Championship 2023 final, has been on a mission to reclaim his spot. The 35-year-old Saurashtra batter leads the run charts in the ongoing Ranji Trophy season with 444 runs at an average of 111, including a double century. With immense experience from 103 Tests and recent achievements like surpassing 20,000 runs in First Class cricket, Pujara could be the ideal replacement for Kohli.
4. Run-Machine from Bengal
Bengal’s star batter Abhimanyu Easwaran, a prolific run-scorer in first-class cricket, is another contender to step in for Kohli. With 6314 runs in 144 innings, including 21 centuries, Easwaran has been consistent for Bengal. Having been part of the India Test squad previously, the right-handed batter’s current form in the Ranji Trophy, coupled with his knowhow of home conditions, positions him as a valuable asset, especially in the top order.