Indian skipper Virat Kohli is arguably the Men in Blue's best batsman across all three formats. The RCB star has thrived in foreign conditions, especially in red-ball cricket, and has scored hundreds in all the SENA (South Africa, England, New Zealand, Australia) countries. With India keen to defend their Border-Gavaskar Trophy, Virat Kohli's absence after the first Test at Adelaide will be a big blow for the team.
The 32-year-old will be heading back to India after the first Test as he is awaiting the birth of his first child. Former Indian cricketer and cricket expert Sanjay Manjrekar believes that Virat Kohli's absence will be a huge setback for the Men in Blue. He is of the opinion that Kohli, with his batting prowess, is equivalent to half the Indian batting.
“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,” Sanjay Manjrekar told 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,” he further added.
Sanjay Manjrekar backs Ajinkya Rahane to bat at No.4 in Virat Kohli's absence
Indian Test vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane is likely to lead the Men in Blue for the remainder of the Test series after Virat Kohli's departure. However, Manjrekar wants him to take extra responsibility and bat at No.4 in Kohli's absence. He also opined that Shubman Gill, who has scored a truckload of runs in domestic cricket, can play at No.6 if the India team management promotes Hanuma Vihari to the No.5 position.
While Virat Kohli's absence will surely be a factor that will have its impact on the Indian team, Manjrekar also feels that it is an opportunity for the entire Indian batting to step up and prove they are good enough without their talisman. The onus will be on the senior batsmen including Cheteshwar Pujara, Rahane and others to deliver in Virat Kohli's absence.
“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.
The first Test between India and Australia will be played at Adelaide from December 17 and it will be a Day-Night encounter. India will have to be at their best if they are to win their second consecutive Test series Down Under.