Australia vs India – Virat Kohli to play only one Test against Australia, Rohit Sharma added to squad
No clarity yet on whether the regular Indian captain will rejoin the squad at some stage
Virat Kohli has been granted paternity leave by the BCCI and will return home after the first Test of the Australia tour – to be played in Adelaide from December 17. It isn’t yet clear whether the Indian captain will be able to return for the remaining Tests but, however long his absence, it is a big blow to the tourists’ plans.
Kohli and his wife Anushka Sharma are expecting their first child around the new year, which had put a question mark over Kohli’s availability for the full tour, scheduled to run from November 27 to January 19. The tour will start with three ODIs, followed by three T20Is, with the four-Test Border-Gavaskar Trophy played at the end.
In a media statement on Monday, the BCCI said Kohli would return to India after the first Test, which will be India’s first day-night Test overseas. The board, however, did not specify whether Kohli would return to rejoin the Indian Test squad at a later stage, though any return would have to negotiate strict quarantine protocols, adding to the time that he would not be available.
ESPNcricinfo has reached out to Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, to check if Kohli might rejoin the Test squad on a later date, but we haven’t received a reply.
That aside, the board didn’t say who would take over as captain in Kohli’s absence, though Ajinkya Rahane – as the designated vice-captain – would be the likely candidate.
“At the selection committee meeting held on October 26th, 2020, Mr Virat Kohli had informed the BCCI about his plans to return to India after the first Test in Adelaide,” the BCCI release, which was signed by board secretary Jay Shah, said. “The BCCI has granted paternity leave to the Indian captain. He will return after the first Test against Australia in Adelaide.”
Kohli missing Tests is a rare enough occurrence as it is. Since he took over as the regular Test captain from MS Dhoni, on a tour of Australia in 2014-15, he has missed only two Tests (he was captain for the first Test of that series but as a stop-gap arrangement because Dhoni was injured): one with an injury against Australia in the 2017-18 series at home and once when he was rested for India’s Test against Afghanistan in 2018. On both occasions, Rahane took over. India won both Tests.
Kohli stands five Tests short of equalling Dhoni’s record of most Tests as Indian captain (60), and he stands alone in terms of most wins: 33 in 55 Tests, compared to Dhoni’s 27 from 60. And Kohli was the captain when India won a series in Australia for the first time, in 2018-19.
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo