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Rediff.com  » Cricket » England Tests: Who Should Replace Virat Kohli?

England Tests: Who Should Replace Virat Kohli?

By REDIFF CRICKET
January 22, 2024 20:19 IST
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IMAGE: Could Cheteshwar Pujara replace Virat Kohli for the first two Tests? Photograph: BCCI
 

Virat Kohli's sudden withdrawal from the Indian team for the first two Tests against England has left the hosts in a quandary.

Kohli has pulled out of the first two games of the five match series, starting on Thursday, January 25, citing 'personal reasons'.

'Virat has spoken to Captain Rohit Sharma, the team management and the selectors and has emphasised that while representing the country has always been his top priority, certain personal situations demand his presence and undivided attention,' BCCI Secretary Jay Amit Shah stated in a media release on Monday.

The selection committee, Shah added, will name a replacement soon for Kohli.

Kohli has been India's most experienced and dependable batter in Test cricket, having scored 8,848 runs in 113 Tests at an average of 49, with 29 centuries and 30 fifties.

He did well in tough conditions in South Africa, scoring 38 and 46 in the two innings he played. Before that he had hit a century (186 against Australia in March last year) followed by 76 and 121 against the West Indies in July.

With Kohli unavailable and Shubman Gill struggling to make a mark in Test, it is imperative that the selectors name a worthy replacement.

There a few names floating around which the Ajit Agarkar-led selection committee might seriously consider like senior pros Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane along with the uncapped duo of Rajat Patidar and Sarfaraz Khan.

A look at how these contenders have fared recently:

Cheteshwar Pujara

The in-form Pujara is the best possible option to replace Kohli. He fell out of favour after playing in the World Test Championship final against Australia in June last year, but Pujara is not the one to give up.

He has been among the runs for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy, having stroked 243 not out against Jharkhand earlier this month.

Pujara has the requiste experience and skill to withstand a tough bowling attack like England. He has featured in 103 Tests, scoring 7,195 runs at an average of 43, with 19 centuries.

If Pujara makes a comeback he could easily slot in at No. 3 which will allow the team management the flexibility to move Gill to No. 4.

Ajinkya Rahane

Rahane has proved himself to be a saviour for India in Tests on countless occasions.

Even though he has the experience of 85 Tests, the former captain is unlikely to make a comeback given his recent form -- with scores of 0, 16 and 0 in his three Ranji innings for Mumbai.

Rajat Patidar

Patidar seems the best bet for the selectors right now.

He made a strong case for himself with two back to back centuries for India 'A' against England Lions in the lead-up to the Tests.

Patidar hit 111 while opening the innings in the practice game against the Lions before single-handedly rescuing India 'A' with a sparkling 151 from 158 balls at No. 3 to take India to an unlikely draw against the same opponents in the first unofficial Test.

The Madhya Pradesh batter, 30, has earned his striped in domestic cricket with a good record of 4,000 runs in 55 first class matches at an average of 45.

Sarfaraz Khan

Could this be the golden opportunity for Sarfaraz to finally earn his India call-up?

Sarfaraz has been unlucky not to get picked for India despite plundering runs for Mumbai in domestic cricket in recent years.

He has made a strong case for himself with scores of 96 and 55 against the England Lions.

Sarfaraz averages a whopping 68 for 3,751 runs in 44 first class matches with 13 centuries, including a highest of 301 not out.

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