Kohli set to miss Rajkot and Ranchi Tests against England


Virat Kohli‘s absence in the England series is set to be extended, with the senior India batter expected to miss the third and fourth Tests in Rajkot and Ranchi, respectively. ESPNcricinfo has learned that doubts also persist on Kohli’s availability for the fifth Test in Dharmasala, which starts from March 6, a factor that the selectors will consider when they meet this week to pick the India squad for the final three Tests.

It was on January 22, three days from the start of the England series, that the BCCI announced that Kohli had pulled out of the first two Tests for “personal reasons”. Kohli had landed in Hyderabad the same morning to join the Indian squad, but flew out the same day. The BCCI has not made any further comment on Kohli’s absence since that statement, which said: “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.”

Rahul, Jadeja in running for Rajkot

Among the players who missed the second Test, Mohammed Siraj is set to make a comeback after he was rested as a precaution. The fitness of KL Rahul, who sat out with a quad strain, and Ravindra Jadeja, who sustained a hamstring injury during the first Test, is being monitored at the NCA in Bangalore.

ESPNcricinfo has learned that the final report from the NCA physio is still awaited, but the outlook for both players is positive. With the third Test not starting for another week, India are optimistic about the chances of at least one (if not both) of Rahul and Jadeja being available for the game, pending fitness clearance.

Rahul and Jadeja were India’s best batters in the first Test, though both missed out on centuries. Rahul filled in the No. 4 slot left vacant by Kohli and his return now would boost the middle order which was light on experience in Vizag.

Siraj back for third Test

The one confirmed returnee for the Rajkot Test is Siraj. The fast bowler, who had bowled 11 overs in the first Test defeat at his home ground in Hyderabad, was rested for the second Test for workload reasons.

The return of Siraj will be a boost for the bowling line-up, which relied on Jasprit Bumrah’s brilliance to win the second Test. The only bowler in the world to have reached the top of ICC rankings in all formats, Bumrah made a comeback from a stress fracture of the back starting with the World Cup last year. Managing his workload will be a consideration for the team management, but he is likely to play in the Rajkot Test next Thursday.

After losing the first Test – only their fourth defeat at home since the start of 2013 – India made a comeback in Vizag to level the five-Test series 1-1. The next two Tests will be played back-to-back before the final Test in Dharamsala starting March 8.

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