Virat Kohli pulls out of opening two Tests against England in blow to India

Star batter withdraws from squad for 'personal reasons' just days before opening match in Hyderabad

Virat Kohli has scored nearly 9,000 Test runs for India. Reuters
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India's plans for the upcoming Test series against England have been disrupted after star batter Virat Kohli withdrew from the squad due to personal reasons.

Kohli is India’s middle-order linchpin but has pulled out of the five-match series opener in Hyderabad, starting on Thursday, as well as the second Test in Visakhapatnam, beginning on February 2.

The 35-year-old boasts nearly 9,000 Test runs and 29 centuries, leaving a major hole in the India XI. He has also excelled on home soil against England, averaging 56.38 in 13 Tests.

India have named just six specialist batters in their squad, as well as wicketkeepers KS Bharat and Dhruv Jurel, with a replacement for Kohli set to be announced.

India are already without one of their first-choice seamers, with Mohammed Shami still working his way back to fitness.

Kohli, who amassed 765 runs in 11 ODI World Cup matches for runners-up India last year, missed the white-ball leg of the South African tour in 2023 and two T20 matches against Afghanistan at home recently but came back to the side to complete the series.

“Virat has spoken to captain Rohit Sharma, the team management and the selectors and has emphasised that while representing the country has always been his top priority, certain personal situations demand his presence and undivided attention,” BCCI secretary Jay Shah said in statement.

“The BCCI respects his decision and the board and team management has extended its support to the star batter and is confident in the abilities of the remaining squad members to step up and deliver commendable performances in the Test series.”

The statement added: “The BCCI requests the media and fans to respect Virat Kohli's privacy during this time and refrain from speculating on the nature of his personal reasons.”

India are unbeaten in a Test series at home since 2012 when Alastair Cook's touring England team beat the hosts 2-1.

Ben Stokes' England have landed in Hyderabad after holding a training camp in Abu Dhabi.

The tourists will be without the services of Harry Brook who also pulled out of the opening game due to personal reasons, with Dan Lawrence called-up as his replacement.

Since making his debut in the final Test of the 2022 summer, Brook has averaged 62.15, at a strike rate of 91.76, from 12 appearances, with four hundreds.

He was particularly prolific on England's tour of Pakistan in late 2022, where he was the Player of the Series for scoring 468 runs from five innings at an average of 93.60.

“Harry Brook is set to return home with immediate effect for personal reasons from the England men's Test tour of India,” the ECB said in a statement.

Updated: January 22, 2024, 2:30 PM