India v Australia: Sunil Gavaskar urges Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara to raise their game

Former captain says team can deliver in the absence of Virat Kohli during Test series

Former captain Sunil Gavaskar said India's middle order batsmen Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara need to step up in the absence of Virat Kohli during the Test series in Australia.

Regular skipper and batting mainstay Kohli will return home after the opening Test in Adelaide next month to attend the birth of his first child with deputy Rahane set to lead in the remaining three matches.

"Indian players do tend to raise their game when he is not around," former India captain Gavaskar told the Times of India, citing some of India's victories in Kohli's absence.

"They understand they have to make up for his absence. It's going to be tough for Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. Both these players have to bat out of their skin."

Rahane has occasionally led India and would enjoy the responsibility, Gavaskar said. Pujara was adjudged man-of-the-series when India beat Australia 2-1 in 2018/19, becoming the first Asian side to triumph in a Test series Down Under.

Known for his impeccable temperament, Pujara prefers to grind down attacks with his defence and Gavaskar said the top order batsman should be allowed to play his natural game.

"That's what got him here. You don't tamper with a player's natural aptitude or temperament," said Gavaskar.

"Nobody should be telling Pujara how to get runs as long as he is getting the runs and the hundreds."