Indian cricketer Virat Kohli has pulled out of the opening two Test matches against England, which are to be played in Hyderabad and Vishakapatnam, respectively. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced that the former Indian captain has withdrawn citing personal reasons and is likely to return to the squad from the third Test.
The first of five Tests against England will begin on January 25 at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium, Hyderabad with the second match on February 2.
In the recently-concluded T20I series against Afghanistan, Virat Kohli missed the first of three matches citing personal reasons as well. After the ICC World Cup 2023, Kohli has only featured in the Test matches against South Africa besides the short-format matches against Afghanistan.
Virat Kohli to miss first two Tests vs England
“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 BCCI stated in a media release.
Kohli has a terrific record against England and has been on a stellar run of form since the beginning of 2023. The 35-year-old has scored 1991 runs against England in Tests at an average of 42.36, played the Test series in South Africa after missing the white-ball games.
This once again opens up the No. 4 debate in the team, with two players available in the XI currently to fill up that slot. KL Rahul has been on a good run of form across formats and might be the front-runner to take that place, while Shreyas Iyer is right behind to fill up the position. Since both of them were set to feature in the starting XI regardless of the Kohli exclusion, a slot opens up in the playing XI for Bharat or Dhruv Jurel.
KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel are two frontline keeping options who can ensure Rahul doesn’t have to keep wickets. Bharat, who made his debut during the previous edition of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy in February last year, was given a few opportunities but he couldn’t capitalise on it. The Andhra batter will be under some pressure to make sure he makes the most of these chances.
Jurel, on the other hand, was rewarded with a maiden national team call-up for his consistent returns at the domestic level with Uttar Pradesh in the ongoing Ranji Trophy. The 23-year-old also made his mark with the Rajasthan Royals in the IPL last season with some clutch cameos.
India have remained unbeaten on home soil for over a decade in Test series and the last team to register a Test series win here were the English themselves under Alistair Cook. A lot has changed since they last toured India in 2021, with the Three Lions implementing their “Bazball” strategy against various top teams to great effect.
Kohli’s absence will come in as a setback for the Indian team, who will now be dependent on the likes of Rohit, Yashasvi Jaiswal and Shubman Gill to do a good amount of scoring in the top order.