India captain Virat Kohli will be returning to India after the first Test against Australia which is slated to begin December 17 in Adelaide. Kohli has been granted paternity leave, and he will be returning home to be with his wife and Bollywood superstar Anushka Sharma for the birth of their child. Former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar believes that despite India having players to fill in the void, Kohli’s absence is still a huge setback for India.
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“Kohli not being there, after the first Test is a massive setback. In foreign conditions, Kohli is half the Indian batting, Pujara stepped up last time in Australia, Kohli has been India’s most dependable player in foreign conditions,” Manjrekar told news agency ANI.
“So his absence will be a huge setback. This particular series against Australia is a test of the depth of India’s cricket talent in Tests,” Manjrekar added.
Manjrekar feels stand-in captain Ajinkya Rahane will be key for India in Kohli’s absence. Manjrekar reckons India will benefit from making Rahane bat in place of Kohli at No. 4, and mentioned certain permutations and combinations the team can try in the remaining three Tests after Kohli’s departure.
“In Virat’s absence, Ajinkya Rahane should step up and bat at number four. Hanuma Vihari can bat at number five, if Shubman is tried in the middle order, then he should bat at number six,” Manjrekar further said.
“Rahane has been averaging more than 50 in his last nine Tests, we will have to wait and see whether Rahane steps up. In fact, it’s a question of the entire batting line-up stepping up. We have only seen them in white-ball cricket,” he added.