SA vs IND: 3 players Virat Kohli can replace in third Test

Virat Kohli missed the second Test against South Africa due to a back spasm.

Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli. (Photo Source: BCCI)
Manoj Kumar
Manoj Kumar

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India’s batting order will feel boosted as regular skipper Virat Kohli is expected back in action for the third Test in Cape Town. The visitors will have their task cut out in the third Test at Newlands as the series is well poised at 1-1 now. After an excellent win in Centurion, the Indian side succumbed to a loss in the second Test at the Wanderers, a venue that had served well for the nation in the past.

KL Rahul-led India for the first time in Kohli’s absence, and it wasn’t an ideal start for the opener in terms of leadership. Despite that, he will play an integral role in the batting order at the top as he has been the in-form batter so far for India. Wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant has been facing the heat after a soft dismissal in the second innings of the Johannesburg Test and he will need a big innings.

Meanwhile, India will also have the conundrum of whom to leave out for the third Test in Cape Town as the middle order has shown signs of form now. Six batters and five bowlers theory has been working well for India in overseas conditions and they are likely to continue with the same unless the Newlands pitch has a high amount of grass.

Here are 3 players Virat Kohli can replace in the third Test against South Africa.

Cheteshwar Pujara

A lot was spoken about Cheteshwar Pujara before the second Test began as he couldn’t do much in the opening clash. After three dismal scores of 0, 16 and 3 in the first three innings of the ongoing series, Pujara was under serious pressure to get some runs and save his Test career. He stepped up at the right time and stitched an important partnership alongside Ajinkya Rahane in the second innings that brought India back into the game.

The right-hander was set for a big one until he got dismissed for 53. Many reckon his strength of playing the long innings has vanished. He showed a lot of character by playing a quickfire knock, but it will remain a question if he has done enough to hold on to his position. Pujara’s numbers in the last three years have gone down massively and hence, India might consider dropping the 33-year-old to accommodate Kohli in the XI.

Hanuma Vihari

Hanuma Vihari of India (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Hanuma Vihari has been unlucky so far as he has played a lot of fighting innings already in his short Test career. His brilliant technique has helped him to survive in tough conditions and the Sydney knock last year was a testimony of his excellent grit and potential. Vihari had an excellent A tour of South Africa recently that had prompted India to bring him back into the squad.

In Kohli’s absence, Vihari finally got a look-in and he played decently in both innings with a 20 and an unbeaten 40. The conditions were really tough at the Wanderers and he managed to survive which does make him a strong contender to play in the third Test. But going by Indian management’s call so far, Vihari could again be the scapegoat to back the skipper in the XI.

Ravichandran Ashwin

Ravichandran Ashwin of India celebrates the wicket
Ravichandran Ashwin of India celebrates the wicket. (Photo by Alex Davidson/Getty Images)

Ravichandran Ashwin has been arguably the best spinner in the last decade and has also proved to be a great all-around option for India in Tests. However, his overseas numbers haven’t improved yet, and mostly, he has played the support role around the quicks when India tours outside Asia. Ashwin has taken threecwickets so far in the series and has been impressive with the bat too with a well-made 46 in the first innings at the Wanderers.

However, India might be looking to change the theory and play six batters with four pacers and a wicketkeeper for the Cape Town Test given that the pitch has extra grass. This could also strengthen the batting that has looked weak so far while presenting an extra opportunity to Vihari at number six.