Cricket world rallies around Virat Kohli after bombshell Test decision saddens fans

The 35-year-old's surprise decision has sparked an outpouring of support.

Virat Kohli, pictured here wife Anushka Sharma.
Virat Kohli and wife Anushka Sharma. Image: Getty

Cricket fans are sending well-wishes to Virat Kohli after the Indian superstar withdrew from the first two Tests against England due to 'personal reasons'. The 35-year-old had been due to play in Thursday's series opener in Hyderabad, but has requested a leave of absence.

He also won't play in the second match in Visakhapatnam, which will start on February 2. The Board of Control for Cricket in India released the news on Monday night, leaving fans heartbroken.

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"Virat has spoken to captain Rohit Sharma, the team management and the selectors and has emphasised that while representing the country has always been his top priority, certain personal situations demand his presence and undivided attention," a statement from the BCCI said. "The BCCI requests the media and fans to respect Virat Kohli's privacy during this time and refrain from speculating on the nature of his personal reasons."

Virat Kohli.
Virat Kohli (R) in action for India against South Africa. (Photo by PHILL MAGAKOE/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

It comes as a huge blow for India, with Kohli still their best player having scored nearly 9000 Test runs. It is unknown at this stage if he will play any part in the five-Test series.

Kohli played in India’s previous Test series in December and January - a 1-1 draw in South Africa. He then missed the first T20 against Afghanistan at home for personal reasons, before returning for the final two matches.

Harry Brook heads home and England hampered by drama

It comes amid dramas for the touring side as well, with uncapped spinner Shoaib Bashir missing the flight to India after a visa delay saw him grounded in Abu Dhabi. Middle-order batter Harry Brook has also returned home home due to personal reasons, with the squad down to 14 members by the time they travelled from their training camp in the UAE to Hyderabad.

Bashir is of Pakistani descent and was the only member of the England squad to experience visa problems. There was a similar situation with Pakistani-born Aussie opener Usman Khawaja early in 2023, when his journey to India was also hindered by a visa hold-up.

Harry Brook, pictured here in action against Australia in the Ashes.
Harry Brook in action against Australia in the Ashes. (Photo by Gareth Copley - ECB/ECB via Getty Images) (Gareth Copley - ECB via Getty Images)

The England and Wales Cricket Board said they are hopeful the issues will be ironed out with some assistance from the BCCI. "Bash will join us hopefully tomorrow - he's got a couple of issues with his visa coming through," England coach Brendon McCullum said. "We're confident on the back of the help from the BCCI and the Indian government that it will sort itself out pretty quickly."

McCullum also offered his support to Brook, who left the squad over the weekend to be with his family. There is no date set down for the 24-year-old's return.

"Obviously our thoughts are with Harry and his family, it's a tough time,'' McCullum said. "It's a privileged position to play cricket for a living, but some things are more important than that. There's a chance he may return later in the tour, but for now we just want him to be with his family and do his thing. We'll just keep talking."

with AAP

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