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Patidar or Sarfaraz: Who could replace Virat Kohli against England?

Last updated on 23 Jan 2024 | 04:38 AM
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Patidar or Sarfaraz: Who could replace Virat Kohli against England?

The star Indian batter has pulled out of the first two Tests, citing personal reasons

Two days prior to the start of the five-Test series against England, Virat Kohli, one of India's premier batters, has withdrawn from the first two Tests. The BCCI release said, "Virat has spoken to Captain Rohit Sharma, the team management, and the selectors and has emphasized that while representing the country has always been his top priority, certain personal situations demand his presence and undivided attention." 

There will be many changes in the playing XI and the squad in his absence. With this, India will have to feature KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, and one of KS Bharat or Dhruv Jurel. In Kohli's presence, there would have been a debate as to who would feature between Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer. 

Now that it is flushed down, Gill and Iyer will be in the playing XI with Rahul. The only headache is in the keeper's department. Will they go with Bharat or hand a debut to Dhruv Jurel? 

Bharat has experience behind him but lacks performance. All his five Test have come against Australia with four of them being played at home. The batter scored 129 runs in eight innings at an average of 18.4, with 44 being his highest. With the gloves, he has been decent, having a catching efficiency of 75% in 16 attempts.

No. 6 is the only vacant spot in the XI. Assuming Ravindra Jadeja bats ahead of Axar Patel, the two will occupy seven and eight. Ravichandran Ashwin, the other all-rounder, will bat at nine, followed by Mohammed Siraj and Jasprit Bumrah. 

The probable XI for the first Test: Rohit Sharma (c), Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Shreyas Iyer, KS Bharat/Dhruv Jurel (wk), Ravindra Jadeja, Axar Patel, Ravichandran Ashwin, Mohammed Siraj, Jasprit Bumrah

In another wild, dreamy world, will India go with four spinners? If India ignores Bharat and Jurel, India can feature Kuldeep Yadav and allow Rahul to keep. Then, India will have the two left-arm orthodox spinning all-rounders at six and seven, Ashwin at eight, Kuldeep at nine, and the two pacers. I know this is my imagination, but it is also a possibility. 

There is not much tension in the replacement of Kohli in the playing XI. However, who will replace him in the squad for the first two games is to be seen. There are few contenders for this position from the domestic circuit. But the biggest question is, will India pick based on their first-class performance? Irrespective of that, let's look at some of the possible replacements:

Sarfaraz Khan

Sarfaraz Khan's name has been echoing in India's domestic circuit for the last few years. However, the middle-order batter from Mumbai misses out. 

In the Ranji Trophy since 2020, Sarfaraz has scored a truckload of runs at an unimaginable average. In the three seasons he has played since the time above, the right-hander has 2,466 runs, averaging 123.3, with ten centuries, including two double centuries and a triple ton. 

But, the Mumbaikar has failed to replicate that when he is in India 'A' jersey. In 11 innings, he averages 36.3 with just four 50+ scores. In his last five FC innings, the batter has two 50+ scores, all for India 'A'. In addition, he scored a valuable 96 in the tour game against the England Lions recently. Though he failed in the first innings (four off nine) of the first unofficial Test against the Lions, he played a handy knock of 55 in the second innings.

Being a good player against spin, Sarfaraz is a valuable pick for India in the middle order. 

Rajat PatidarIn the year Madhya Pradesh won the Ranji title (2021/22), Rajat Patidar played a crucial role. He was one among the three MP batters to score a century (122) in the first innings of the final. Chasing 108, he stayed till the end and guided MP to a title with an unbeaten 30. Throughout that season, Patidar had 650+ runs at an average of 82.25. 

Since then, he has just been unstoppable. In 21 Ranji innings since 2022, he has amassed 1,223 runs at an average of 61.15. Most importantly, in FC cricket since 2022, Patidar has 352 runs, averaging 88 for India 'A'. Overall, in seven innings for India 'A', he has 500+ runs at 84.5 in seven innings. 

He saved his team from deep waters in the first unofficial Test in the ongoing India 'A' series against the England Lions. While India were seven down for just 95, Patidar, alongside the tail, added 132 runs. In total, India 'A' scored 227, and 66.5% of the runs were scored by Patidar (151). 

Pradosh Ranjan Paul

You might have heard a lot about Sai Sudharsan from Tamil Nadu, but yet another name with massive potential has emerged out of the state. Pradosh Ranjan Paul has been in scintillating form. The left-handed middle-order batter has 1,026 runs at an average of 64.1. 

In his last tour to South Africa for India 'A', Pradosh scored a magnificent 163 in the first unofficial Test. Despite suffering a duck against the England Lions in the first innings of the first unofficial Test in Ahmedabad, he bounced back with a 37-ball 43 in the second innings. 

Overall, the left-hander from Tamil Nadu, averages 70.1 with 911 runs in 14 FC innings since 2022. To go with that, he has two half-centuries and four centuries. 

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