Indian skipper Virat Kohli is all set to return home after leading India in the limited-overs leg and the Pink-Ball Test against Australia. BCCI has granted Kohli paternity leave upon his request to be at the birth of his first child in India. With Kohli being unavailable for the last three Tests, his famed no.4 spot will be vacant and there are quite a few players in the squad who can replace the Indian captain in the playing XI.
While these are tough shoes to fill, Team India is blessed with some good back-up options who can make the most of this opportunity to bat in the middle-order. Being the vice-captain, Ajinkya Rahane is most likely to lead the side for the last 3 matches during the Border-Gavaskar series.
Here's a look at 3 players who can replace Virat Kohli for the last three Tests against Australia:
1. KL Rahul
KL Rahul is making his Test comeback after he was overlooked for the Test series against South Africa and New Zealand. His recent white-ball form has helped his cause to make his way back into the Test setup. In the recently concluded IPL, Rahul scored the most runs and won the Orange Cap award in IPL 2020. With some consistent performances in the shorter versions, Rahul has not only earned a promotion be named as vice-captain but has also forced the selectors to rope him in the Test squad.
On his last tour of Australia in 2018/19, the Indian opener faced a horrible time after he was dropped midway through the series pertaining to a string of low scores. However, India's tour of Australia 2020 might provide him an opportunity to redeem himself in the middle-order in the Test matches. He can be a decent enough replacement for Virat Kohli and would also get an opportunity to play against the old ball.
KL Rahul Test Stats
2. Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill has been with the Indian Test team for quite a long time now. However, the Punjab-born player has failed to break into the playing XI on any of the previous occasions. While he is yet to make his Test debut, Gill has already shown glimpses of what he is capable of achieving even in the red-ball format. He might be considered as another possible replacement for Kohli for the last three Tests.
Though for a majority of his career Gill has featured as an opener, he would still love to get an opportunity in the playing XI even if it is the middle-order for any of the Tests against Australia.
Shubman Gill's FC record
3. Hanuma Vihari
Hanuma Vihari is another such player who has impressed playing as a middle-order batsman in what has been a decent start to his young Test career. The 27-year-old from Andhra Pradesh has already played some gritty and tough knocks for the team in his nine-Test career. Vihari played out of his usual batting position when he opened against Australia in the Boxing Day Test in 2018/19.
Even in the absence of Kohli, the team management might look towards Vihari with greater confidence to deliver for the team's cause. On the last tour in 2018, Vihari looked comfortable playing against the Australian quicks. However, he wasn't able to score big runs but this could be the perfect opportunity for him to exploit it to his advantage.
Hanuma Vihari Test Stats