Indian men’s senior team head coach Rahul Dravid has confirmed that Indian cricketer Virat Kohli will be missing the first T20I against Afghanistan which will be played on January 11. The former T20 world champions are set to lock horns with Afghanistan for a three-match series, with the games to be played in Mohali, Indore and Bengaluru, respectively.
Kohli will return for the remaining two matches, as confirmed by Dravid. While question marks remain over whether or not Kohli will make it to the T20 World Cup squad, to be played in the West Indies and the USA in June, his terrific run in ODIs last year, especially in the ODI World Cup, will make him a strong contender to return to this team.
The star batter who is aiming to carry this run of form into 2024, is making a comeback in the T20I setup for the first time since playing the semi-final against England in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2022. Kohli is the leading run-scorer in T20 internationals and is also the only player with over 4,000 runs in this format.
Rohit Sharma, who is second on this run-scorers list, marked his comeback as well in the team and was named captain with the upcoming T20 World Cup a few months away.
Virat Kohli to miss first T20I v AFG
Dravid confirmed the news of the absence of the star in the pre-match press conference in Mohali, saying he would be available from the second T20I.
With the return of Virat Kohli and Rohit, who are likely to take two of the top three spots, the future of some T20 regulars has fallen in jeopardy. Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill have made their mark in the format with their exceptional run of form and as it stands, only one of them can get into the playing XI. However, with Kohli unavailable, Gill could play at No. 3 in Mohali while Sharma opens the batting alongside Jaiswal. Dravid confirmed Jaiswal would open the innings with Rohit on Thursday.
There are plenty of question marks over the players who are confirmed for a spot in the playing XI. Jitesh Sharma and Sanju Samson are fighting for the keeper-batter slot, while Rinku Singh and Tilak Verma might find themselves being rotated as well for a single spot. However, with both Tilak and Rinku capable of batting in the lower middle order, we could see both of them in the XI as well.
Besides these issues, Indian management is also tackling some uncertainty over the availability of Hardik Pandya and Suryakumar Yadav. Hardik Pandya, who was the first-choice captain for the team after the last T20 World Cup, has been sidelined for a long duration due to a knee injury while Suryakumar Yadav, Hardik’s deputy in recent times, was diagnosed with a sports hernia.
Although the reintroduction of Rohit and Virat Kohli was widely criticised as many deemed it to be regressive, their experience might come in handy especially if Hardik and Suryakumar don’t make it to the tournament.
This three-match series is also India’s final assignment in the shortest format before the T20 World Cup. India will play five Tests against England after the end of this series, which will be followed by a lengthy schedule of the Indian Premier League (IPL), spanning over March, April and May.
India’s T20 World Cup campaign will begin on June 5 in New York against Ireland, followed by the highly-anticipated clash against Pakistan on June 9.