Hyderabad, Jan 22: Three days ahead of the start of the five-match Test series against England at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium, India have been dealt with a huge blow as talismanic batter Virat Kohli has withdrawn from the first two matches, citing personal reasons.
In a statement, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said a replacement will be named soon by the selection committee after Kohli requested to withdraw from the Test matches in Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, while requesting for his privacy to be respected.
“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 respects his decision and the Board and team management has extended its support to the star batter and is confident in the abilities of the remaining squad members to step up and deliver commendable performances in the Test series.”
“The BCCI requests the media and fans to respect Virat Kohli's privacy during this time and refrain from speculating on the nature of his personal reasons. The focus should remain on supporting the Indian cricket team as they embark on the upcoming challenges in the Test series,” said the BCCI.
Kohli played India's last Test series against South Africa, which ended in a 1-1 draw. He then missed the first T20I against Afghanistan at Mohali earlier this month due to personal reasons before playing in the last two matches of the series at Indore and Bengaluru.
In the absence of Kohli for the first two matches, India will depend a lot on middle-order batters Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer. KL Rahul, named as a wicketkeeper-batter, can also play as a specialist batting option. KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel are the other contenders for the wicketkeeper's spot in India’s playing eleven.
On Sunday, England said middle-order batter Harry Brook had pulled out of the tour of India with immediate effect, citing personal reasons. Later in the day, it announced Dan Lawrence as Brook’s replacement in the touring party, with the middle-order batter expected to link up with the team in Hyderabad on Monday.
The upcoming series between India and England will begin at Hyderabad on January 25, followed by other matches at Visakhapatnam (February 2-6), Rajkot (February 15-19), Ranchi (February 23-27) and Dharamshala (March 7-11).
India are currently at second place on the 2023-2025 World Test Championship points table with 54.16 PCT, behind defending champions Australia. England, on the other hand, are at eighth place in the points table with 15 PCT. (IANS)