Kohli’s absence incentive for Indians to lift up their game: Gavaskar

Virat Kohli’s absence in the last three Tests of the upcoming four-match series will be a huge boost to Australia considering his record Down Under where he has scored six centuries and three fifties in 12 Tests he has played so far, say Sunil Gavaskar and Allan Border.

“I think it is a huge boost for the Australians, a man who has six hundred in 12 Tests in Australia. It is a huge boost for Australians not to be bowling to Kohli in the last three Tests,” said Gavaskar during a media interaction.

Kohli will be returning to India after the Adelaide Test (December 17-21) to be with his wife Anushka Sharma who is expecting their first child.

Border concurred with Gavaskar saying that absence of the 32-year-old will leave a huge gap in the Indian line-up.

“I agree, there will be a huge gap in that line-up — just his presence around that team and out on the field. I think the Aussies will really enjoy that they don’t have to bowl to him for three of the Test matches. So he will want to hit the ground running at Adelaide and try and get India off to a flying start and see what happens from there,” said Border.

“It’s hard to replace anyone like him. So we have to wait and see the impact it has but surely the Aussies will be warm favourites for the games where he is not playing. That is for sure,” added the former Australia captain.

Gavaskar, however, felt that India can be competitive despite Kohli’s absence having proven previously that they can win without him.

“As far as Indians are concerned, every time Kohli hasn’t played, India have won. He didn’t play the Dharamsala Test (against Australia). He was down with shoulder injury, (Ajinkya) Rahane captained, India won. He was unavailable for the Afghanistan Test, their debut Test, because he wanted to play County cricket which even though didn’t happen but he wasn’t selected for the Test. India won that Test too. Then India won the Asia Cup and Nidahas Trophy when Kohli didn’t play,” said the 71-year-old.

“So somebody or the other from the Indian ranks, they lift themselves up to make up for his absence. And therefore like I said that though it is going to be a huge boost for the Australians, for the Indians it will be a great incentive to lift their game up, for everybody to give that extra to make up for his absence,” he added.

The former India opener said that in Kohli’s absence, Rahane would move from number five to number four with Hanuma Vihari batting at five.

“I think what will happen is that Ajinkya Rahane will move from five to four and Hanuma Vihari will bat at five. I don’t know so Hanuma Vihari batting at six will move up to five and then they might look at bringing in KL Rahul for the Melbourne Test. This is what I think. Though he didn’t play in both the three-day warm-up games but my feeling that they will go for him,” he said.