How Virat Kohli bombshell will impact Aussie Test summer

Australian Associated Press
·3-min read
Pictured here, Virat Kohli and his wife Anushka Sharma are expecting their first baby later this year.
Virat Kohli will only play one Test in Australia before flying home to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Pic: Getty

Virat Kohli's mid-series departure will leave an immense void for India and broadcasters, but Australia know all too well why the tourists represent a potent force without their inspirational skipper.

Kohli has confirmed he will return home for the birth of his and wife Anushka Sharma's first child.

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The COVID-19 pandemic means that trip will sideline cricket's biggest drawcard from the final three Tests of the four-Test series that begins at Adelaide Oval on December 17.

Kohli is India's talisman, a wondrous batsman for all situations who has animatedly dragged his country to more Test victories than any other captain.

India will be without their best player and a proven performer in Australia.

Kohli averages 55.39 here; Jack Hobbs and Wally Hammond are the only tourists to have celebrated more Test centuries on our shores.

Seen here, Virat Kohli averages well over 50 in his Test matches Down Under.
Kohli enjoys an extraordinary batting record in Australia. Pic: Getty

The leadership void is likely to be filled by vice-captain Ajinkya Rahane, although India's cricket board is yet to confirm this.

Former paceman Irfan Pathan has suggested Rohit Sharma should be given the job; such debate is near impossible to avoid given Kohli's irreplaceable status in his homeland and the fact he has missed only two Tests since becoming captain in 2014.

Yet India have proven in their previous two Test series against Australia that they are no one-man band.

India support cast will need to step up

Kohli made plenty of noise during his previous visit, but it was immovable object Cheteshwar Pujara's 521 runs that proved the difference as India registered their first Test series win in Australia.

Kohli averaged 9.2 during Australia's tour of India in 2017, marking the statistical low of a decorated 86-Test career.

The hosts weathered a shock loss in that series opener and prevailed 2-1 in an epic contest.

Rahane served as stand-in skipper for the fourth Test, which Kohli missed through injury, and earned victory plus praise from Ian Chappell and other good judges.

Rahane holds a black belt in karate but is far less fiery than his feted predecessor, having formed friendships with Australian teammates in the Indian Premier League.

Kohli's absence at the MCG, SCG and Gabba is likely to create an opportunity for either Shubman Gill or Prithvi Shaw, a pair of 21-year-old batsmen with talent to burn.

Gill boasts a first-class average of 73.55.

Shaw was attracting Sachin Tendulkar comparisons even before becoming the youngest Indian to score a Test century on debut, a feat achieved at age 18.

But Pujara, Sharma, Rahane, Shaw and Gill won't come close to matching the aura surrounding this summer's headline act.

Kohli is capable of captivating the public more than most members of Tim Paine's team; he will be dearly missed by Cricket Australia and Channel Seven's marketing departments.

Virat Kohli and his wife Anushka Sharma are seen here at an awards ceremony in 2019.
Virat Kohli and Anushka Sharma attend the second edition of Indian Sports Honours annual ceremony in 2019. Pic: Getty

Seven can not begrudge Kohli's family-first decision, but the free-to-air broadcaster will likely feel even more aggrieved about a summer that remains the subject of a testy contract dispute.

India will play cricket on 29 days this season, presuming all Tests run to a fifth day.

Fox Sports will show all 14 days involving Kohli (including a tour match), whereas Seven will only broadcast one Test involving the larger-than-life batsman.

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