The Indian cricket team has been dealt a huge blow with the unfortunate injury of skipper Virat Kohli on the first day of the third Test match. The early reports have suggested that the stalwart could be ruled out for the fourth and final Test match against Australia after suffering a grade 1 ligament tear.
The incident during the second session of the Day’s play when Kohli chased down the ball and then dived to prevent a boundary. However, his shoulder landed awkwardly and jammed in the process. Now, with the series tied at 1-1 and Australia already in cruise control in the third Test, India is in a spot of bother.
However, the country does have a huge pool of talent, especially in the batting front. This might be an opportunity for one of fringe players to shine and possibly book a place in the line-up.
Here, we take a look at five possible replacements for Virat Kohli.
#5 Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant has been knocking on the doors of the Indian team for the last few months. He bursting onto the scene with impressive performances at the U-19 World Cup in 2016 and then followed it up with a spectacular domestic season.
The Delhi-boy was in stellar form throughout the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy where he scored four centuries. He broke records left, right and centre when he scored a triple century against Maharashtra and hit a 48-ball hundred against Jharkhand. The Indian national team call-up came soon afterwards and so did his international debut in a T20I against England.
The youngster had a slow start in the Vijay Hazare Trophy but rediscovered his form in Delhi’s final group match to score 99 from only 72 deliveries. One of the top performers of the domestic scene, Pant is a top contender to replace Kohli in the Test team.
The attacking batsman can play as an opener or even bat in the middle-order in Kohli’s position. He is a good player of both pace and spin but will have to fight his teeth out to perform well (if given the chance) in a series which has not been very forgiving to the batsmen.
#4 Shreyas Iyer
Shreyas Iyer has been a popular name in the Indian domestic circuit for the last couple of years. After slamming more than 800 runs in his first full Ranji season, the youngster caught the attention in his second season, which is considered by many to be sandpaper. He finished as the leading run-scorer with 1321 runs, averaging over 73.
In the 2016-17 Ranji Trophy season, the Mumbai batsman helped his team to the finals as he scored 725 runs at an average of 42.6. He scored a century in a warm-up tie against Bangladesh but that did not grab many eyeballs.
However, the 22-year-old recently slammed a double century in the Australia’s warm-up game against India A. While all the other batsmen failed to impress, Iyer dominated the Aussie attack that comprised the likes of Nathan Lyon and Steven O’Keefe.
Most of the Indian team batsmen have failed to properly manoeuvre Lyon and Keefe in the ongoing series, albeit the conditions are entirely different but Iyer certainly deserves some credit for the way he took on the two spinners. He can ease into the Indian middle-order and is an attractive option for the selectors to consider.
#3 Ishan Kishan
18-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Ishan Kishan is one special talent. Still a teenager, he has already achieved so much, many can only dream of. Captain of the national U-19 team that made it to the final of the ICC U-19 World Cup last year, Kishan is one to look out for in the future.
The Jharkhand boy did not perform exceptionally with the bat at the U-19 World Cup but he did not let his failure define him. Instead, he took it upon himself to improve on his batting technique under the watchful eyes of Rahul Dravid. The results would be out for everyone to see in the coming months.
The 2016-17 Ranji Trophy was a memorable one for Jharkhand and more so, for Kishan. The youngster amassed 799 runs in his first full season as his state finished as runners-up in the tournament. His knock of 86 in only 61 balls in the quarter-finals stood out.
He has already shown immense leadership skills and adaptability. And while Kishan is still in his early days as a cricketer, it might be a good idea to give him a taste of international cricket. However, the main focus should be on moulding him for the future and not rushing into things.
#2 Manish Pandey
Manish Pandey had shot to the limelight when he scored a jaw-dropping century in the 2009 IPL. However, with the mountain of expectation burdening his shoulders, the batsman had failed to deliver on a consistent basis.
Following a sparkling season with Karnataka, Pandey broke into the national side. Last year in January, he showed his talent to the entire world by scoring a sublime hundred in an ODI against Australia as India chased down a 300+ score. However, he failed to impress in the following eight matches that he played in and Yuvraj Singh took his place.
In Tests, Pandey could not cement his spot in the Indian middle-order as well. He did not have a particularly brilliant Ranji Trophy as Karnataka crashed out in the quarter-finals. Also, he could only manage one half-century in the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
However, the fact that he has been around as a fringe player and that he has a hundred in Australia could earn him a call-up to the side. India needs a batsman with an attacking mindset to lead the charge against the Aussies and Pandey could well be the answer.
#1 Rohit Sharma
On his day, Rohit Sharma is one of the most devastating batsmen in world cricket. Unfortunately, though, he suffered a thigh injury during the ODI series against New Zealand back in October last year while batting that ruled him out for almost four months.
However, the 29-year-old has recovered from his injury and played for Mumbai in the ongoing Vijay Hazare Trophy. He, however, failed to make an impact on his comeback game as he was dismissed for only 16 against Andhra. The Goa match turned out to be even worse as he managed only 4 runs. But making a return after four months is no easy task.
Before Sharma got injured, it looked like he was showing signs of consistency in the longer format – it was as if he was finally coming to terms with Test cricket. In his last three Test matches, he scored three half-centuries and remained unbeaten on two occasions.
With the Indian skipper out, the Mumbaikar might just get his chance to get back to the side. Yes, he has just returned from injury but this is why he will be hungry for runs. And who knows, Sharma might just be India’s match-winner in the final Test.