2 contenders to replace Virat Kohli shoes in Team India’s squad for first two-Tests against England

On January 22, former India captain and batting maestro Virat Kohli shocked fans by withdrawing from India’s squad for the first two Tests against England due to personal reasons. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) quickly confirmed that Kohli won’t be playing and promised to announce his replacement soon as the Test series starts on January 25.

Cheteshwar Pujara

One frontrunner for the coveted spot is veteran batsman Cheteshwar Pujara, who has been out of India’s Test squad since the 2023 World Test Championship final due to a series of lackluster performances. Despite being dropped, Pujara showed his resilience and class in domestic competitions. Notably, he recently notched an impressive half-century against Vidarbha, crossing the 20,000 first-class run milestone—a feat achieved by only three others in Indian cricket history.

Against Jharkhand, Pujara recorded his 17th double-century in first-class cricket. His unbeaten 243 off 356 balls propelled Saurashtra to a declaration at 578/4, emphasizing his proficiency against spinners and precision in shot execution. Pujara’s stellar performance positions him as a strong contender to fill Kohli’s shoes.

Rajat Patidar

Rajat Patidar, a stylish right-handed batter, is another contender for Kohli’s spot. The 30-year-old showcased his red-ball prowess during the 1st unofficial Test against England Lions, rescuing India A from a precarious situation at 95/7 with a remarkable century. Patidar’s counter-attacking cricket under pressure earned him a century in just 94 balls, amassing 151 runs with 19 fours and five sixes.

In a prior tour match against the England Lions, Patidar impressed with a score of 111 while opening the innings for India A. With a wealth of experience in First-Class cricket, boasting 4,000 runs in 55 matches at an average of 45.97, including 22 fifties and 12 centuries, Patidar presents a strong case for consideration in Kohli’s absence.

As India looks to fill the void left by Kohli’s withdrawal, the selectors and captain Rohit Sharma have intriguing choices in Pujara’s experience and Patidar’s recent red-ball heroics. The upcoming Tests against England will undoubtedly witness a new face taking on the responsibility of anchoring India’s batting lineup.

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