• Tuesday, March 05, 2024

CRICKET

Blow for India as Kohli to skip first 2 Tests against England for ‘personal reasons’

The ace batter took leaves during India’s away Test series in South Africa and during the recent T20 series against Afghanistan at home.

India cricketer Virat Kohli with his wife Anushka Sharma. (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

HOSTS India’s plans for the upcoming five-Test series against England received a major blow on Monday (22) when ace batter Virat Kohli pulled out of the first two matches due to personal reasons that “demand his presence and undivided attention”, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said.

The board also appealed to fans and media to not speculate about the exact reason for the 35-year-old cricketer’s forced break before the first Test that begins in Hyderabad on Thursday (25). The second match will be played in Visakhapatnam between February 2 and 6. The other three games will be played in Rajkot, Ranchi and Dharamshala.

“Virat Kohli has requested the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) to be withdrawn from the first two Tests of the upcoming IDFC First Bank Test series against England, citing personal reasons,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in a statement.

The BCCI also said that Kohli has discussed his decision with skipper Rohit Sharma and the team management.

Read: Business tycoon Anand Mahindra stunned as ‘flying’ Kohli stops a 6: ‘Hello, Isaac Newton?’

“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 release further stated.

Read: England may open with 2 spinners in India Tests, says veteran James Anderson

Shah also said that BCCI completely backs its star player and has faith in the team and its ability to get results even without its best batter.

“The BCCI respects his decision and the board and team management has extended its support to the star batter and is confident in the abilities of the remaining squad members to step up and deliver commendable performances in the Test series,” the secretary said. He also urged everyone to respect Kohli’s privacy.

“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.

“The focus should remain on supporting the Indian cricket team as they embark on the upcoming challenges in the Test series,” Shah said.

It has been learnt that both Shah and chairman of selectors Ajit Agarkar were kept in loop about the possibility of Kohli needing a break at some point during the England series.

Recently, Kohli skipped the first T20I game against Afghanistan due to “personal reasons”.

Before that, he had taken a short break, again for personal reasons, during India’s tour of South Africa where he missed an intra-squad practice game and flew to London, within days after arriving in South Africa.

The last time he took a break, which was not linked to any injury, during a Test series was a paternity leave in 2021 when his daughter Vamika was born. He only played the first Test of that series before returning home.

Kohli, who has played 113 Tests to score 8,848 runs with 29 centuries and at an average of nearly 50, has made 1,991 runs against England in 29 matches with five tons.

The England squad led by Ben Stokes reached India for the much-anticipated Test series on Sunday (21) evening.

Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan in contention

It is understood that one among the two heavyweight India ‘A’ performers — Rajat Patidar of Madhya Pradesh and Sarfaraz Khan of Mumbai — are frontrunners to replace Kohli. Patidar recently scored 151 against the England Lions in an unofficial Test and Khan scored a half-ton in the second innings of the same game.

There is talk of including veteran Cheteshwar Pujara in the line-up considering his experience of 20,000 plus first-class runs, including 7,000 in Tests.

However, it will be interesting if the current selection committee under Agarkar is ready to look back or move forward.

The India batting line-up for first Test will comprise Yashasvi Jaiswal, Rohit Sharma, Shubman Gill, KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Ravindra Jadeja, and KS Bharat (wicket-keeper).

(With agency inputs)

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