Virat Kohli’s absence for the final three Test of the upcoming Border-Gavaskar Trophy will “create a big hole” in the Indian batting order, believes former Australia captain Ian Chappell.
Kohli will be returning to India after the first Test against Australia - a day-night fixture currently slated to be played at the Adelaide Oval from December 17 - to be with his wife Anushka Sharma for the delivery of their first child. However, he will be part of the limited-overs leg of the tour - three ODIs and three T20Is - beginning November 27.
“India also face a selection dilemma when skipper Virat Kohli departs for home for the birth of his first child following the opening Test. This creates both a big hole in the Indian batting order and an opportunity for one of their talented young players to make a name for himself,” ESPNcricinfo quoted Chappell as saying.
“What was already shaping up as an exciting tussle now has the added stimulus of crucial selection decisions. The result could well come down to who is the bravest set of selectors,” he added.
Australia all-rounder Marcus Stoinis, however, believes missing the last three Tests will not take motivation away from Kohli.
“Don’t worry about Virat. He is up for every single game he is playing. Maybe, there will be extra motivation. I am sure he will be ready to go. As I said he is getting home for the birth of his child which is the right decision, so I am sure he will be extra motivated,” Stoinis said on Saturday.
Meanwhile, former fast bowler Geoff Lawson said India without Kohli will be akin to Australia without Steve Smith and David Warner.
“India without Virat Kohli will be like Australia without Smith and Warner. It’s not just the runs he makes, but the way he lifts the psyche of the whole group,” Lawson wrote in his column for the Sydney Morning Herald.
With 7,240 runs at an average of 53.62, Kohli is the highest run scorer in the Indian squad for the Tests and is ranked in the ICC rankings for the longest format of the game behind Smith.
India had won the previous Test series they played in Australia with the hosts missing Smith and Warner and still reeling from the aftermath of the 2018 ball tampering scandal.
Since the duo came back, however, Australia have experienced a reversal in fortune culminating in them pipping India at the top of the ICC Test Championship earlier this month.
Lawson said that Australia’s biggest strength now compared to what they had before the 2018/19 Test series against India is that they have options.
“Australia have risen on the back of drawing away with England and then beating a well-below-strength New Zealand and thumping a classic Pakistan at home last summer. And as the international season looms, No.1 Test nation Australia finds itself in an unusual situation: there are options for batting spots,” said Lawson.
“Indian cricketers will be expecting the unexpected. They will be a handful, given they are defending the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, won on Australian soil for the first time two years ago, and their fast bowling group continues to grow in stature,” he said.
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