Kohli replacement: Pujara, Patidar, Rinku, Sarfaraz in race for Test selection | Crickit

Virat Kohli replacement: Pujara, Patidar, Rinku, Sarfaraz in race to be named in India Test squad for England series

Jan 23, 2024 12:00 PM IST

Who are the players that can replace Kohli in India's Test squad? Cheteshwar Pujara, Rajat Patidar, Sarfaraz Khan and Rinku Singh are the top contenders so far

Let's face it, it's nearly impossible to replace Virat Kohli, especially in Test cricket. Who would make batting look so easy even on the most challenging of conditions? Who would get in the face of the opposition and stare them in the eye till they look elsewhere? Who would always keep the opposition on their toes? Till Kohli is there, India are still in the game, who would instil the same belief?

Rajat Patidar and Rinku Singh during a practice session(AFP/Getty)
Rajat Patidar and Rinku Singh during a practice session(AFP/Getty)

The selectors and the Indian team management led by captain Rohit Sharma will have to find an answer to those questions very soon. Kohli won't be a part of the first two Tests against England. The star batter decided to pull out due to personal reasons. BCCI said a replacement would be named soon.

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But who are the players that can replace Kohli in India's Test squad?

Cheteshwar Pujara: It's not over until it actually is, isn't it? Pujara is still hanging in there. Another comeback at the of 35 is not impossible, especially after he hit an unbeaten 243 in Saurashtra's opening match of this year's Ranji Trophy against Jharkhand. In the next two matches against Haryana and Vidarbha, he got 49, 43, 43, and 66. He is in good form. He also completed 14000 runs only in first-class cricket. But more than the runs, what could go in Pujara's favour is his experience. In Kohli's absence, the Indian batting unit is heavily dependent on Rohit, the most experienced after Kohli in the line-up. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer and KL Rahul are yet to dominate this format. Against a team like England, the selectors might be tempted to fall back on Pujara.

Rajat Patidar: The strongest of all the contenders. The Madhya Pradesh right-hander has two centuries in his last three innings for India A. The second one was a blistering 151 against the England Lions when all the other India A batters failed. He has a first-class average of 46 to go with 12 centuries.

Sarfaraz Khan: There was a lot of chatter when Sarfaraz wasn't picked in the Indian Test squad for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy last year. For obvious reasons, he was the top run-getter in the last two Ranji seasons and how. He has a first-class average of 68 after 44 matches. What went against the Mumbai cricketer was his weakness against the short ball and his batting order - he bats at No.5 or below for Mumbai. But that didn't stop Sarfaraz from smashing two half-centuries including a 96 against England Lions.

Rinku Singh: A late entry but a strong contender without a doubt. Rinku's success in white-ball internationals has been exemplary. Rinku has had a great start to his international career, albeit in T20Is - he averages 89 and has a strike rate of 176 in 15 matches. The left-hander from Uttar Pradesh has impressed one and all with his temperament in some of the most difficult situations. Besides, the 26-year-old is quite an accomplished first-class cricketer. He has amassed 3109 runs in 44 first-class matches at an average of 57.57 with the help of seven centuries and 20 half-centuries.

Is there anyone else? If they selectors want to pull a rabbit out of the hat then young Sai Sudharsan can also be an option. In the recent South Africa tour, he was pretty good in the ODIs.

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