SA vs Ind – Virat Kohli leaves South Africa, likely to be back for first Test – Ruturaj Gaikwad ruled out


Virat Kohli has left South Africa for personal reasons, but is likely to rejoin the Test squad ahead of the Boxing Day Test in Centurion. Kohli didn’t take part in the Indians’ three-day intra-squad match, the only red-ball outing for a number of senior players including captain Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah, ahead of the two-Test series.
Ruturaj Gaikwad, meanwhile, has been ruled out of the two-Test series because of a finger injury. Abhimanyu Easwaran, who is currently part of the India A squad that is on a shadow tour of South Africa, has been named* as Gaikwad’s replacement as the reserve opener. Rohit and Yashasvi Jaiswal are likely to continue their partnership at the top of the order, like they did in the Caribbean in July-August, which was India’s most recent Test assignment.

Abhimanyu struck an unbeaten 61 on the second day of the practice game in Pretoria before he was retired by the team management. Abhimanyu is expected to feature for India A in the second four-day match against South Africa A, also beginning on December 26, barring any last-minute changes. He will then link up with the national squad ahead of the New Year’s Test in Cape Town.

Gaikwad is expected to head back home and to the BCCI’s National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru. He picked up the injury on the ring finger of his right hand while fielding during the second ODI against South Africa in Gqeberha. In his absence, India handed a debut to Rajat Patidar for the series-deciding final ODI in Paarl, which India won.
India’s Test squad has been in preparation for the past four days in Pretoria under Rahul Dravid’s coaching staff. KL Rahul, India’s stand-in ODI captain, and Mukesh Kumar are expected to link up with the Test squad after a day’s rest following the ODI series. Shreyas Iyer, who was also part of the ODI mix, had been released from the squad after the first ODI to prepare for the Tests.

Iyer and Rahul will be returning to Test cricket after a prolonged absence. Both of them last featured for India during the Border-Gavaskar series at home against Australia in February. Rahul, who opened in the series, lost his place after the second Test. He missed the subsequent WTC final and the Caribbean tour because of a hamstring injury. He is likely to take over wicketkeeping duties for the Tests. Iyer, too, hasn’t played a first-class game since March, and has been on a steady diet of ODI cricket following his comeback from back surgery.

The upcoming series is India’s second assignment in the new WTC cycle for 2023-25. They won the first Test in the Caribbean and were denied an opportunity to win the second by rain.

The article was updated after the BCCI confirmed Abhimanyu Easwaran as Ruturaj Gaikwad’s replacement.

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