Virat Kohli is all but set for his return to lead India in Cape Town as it sets sights on a historic Test series win in South Africa.
The 33-year-old missed the second Test at Johannesburg where India went down to the determined Proteas who levelled the series 1-1. In a rare occurrence, Kohli missed the Test due to an upper back spasm – the first time he had missed an international fixture due to an injury in almost three years.
Kohli’s presence will boost the stature of India’s middle-order strength. However, recent Test figures of the Pujara-Kohli-Rahane triumvirate have been underwhelming – a stretch that is closing in on three years. Rahane’s lean patch has cost him his Test vice-captaincy role to K. L. Rahul, taking away the tag of being an automatic pick.
Kohli’s prolonged barren run
Seven hundred and eighty days have lapsed since Kohli’s last international hundred – an innings of 136 against Bangladesh in India’s first-ever pink ball Test in Kolkata.
Kohli has featured in 25 Test innings since, scoring 652 runs at a paltry average of 26.08 and has managed to cross the 50-run mark on only five instances. Kohli has also bagged the joint-most ducks among specialist Indian batters in the period – a dubious record he shares with his middle-order partners, Pujara and Rahane.
Virat Kohli in Tests
MT: 98, INN: 166, Runs: 7854, HS: 254, AVE: 50.35, 50s: 27, 100s: 27, Ducks: 14
Kohli since last Test ton (Nov 23, 2019)
MT: 14, INN: 25, Runs: 652, HS: 74, AVE: 26.08, 50s: 5, 100s: 0, Ducks: 4
In the World Test Championship era, Kohli has bagged six ducks, only behind England’s Rory Burns (7) among all top-order batters in the world.
Meanwhile, Rahane and Pujara might have saved their spots for a little longer with respective scores of 53 and 58 in the second innings of the second Test. This means Hanuma Vihari could face the axe upon Kohli’s return – featuring in just a single Test at Johannesburg last week since his iconic match-saving knock of 23 n.o. off 167 deliveries against Australia at Sydney in early 2021.
Cheteshwar Pujara in Tests
MT: 94, INN: 160, Runs: 6661, HS: 206 n.o., AVE: 44.11, 50s: 32, 100s: 18, Ducks: 11
Pujara since last Test ton (Jan 4, 2019)
MT: 26, INN: 46, Runs: 1235, HS: 91, AVE: 27.44, 50s: 12, 100s: 0, Ducks: 5
Ajinkya Rahane in Tests
MT: 81, INN: 138, Runs: 4921, HS: 188, AVE: 39.05, 50s: 25, 100s: 12, Ducks: 10
Rahane since Jan 1, 2020
MT: 18, INN: 33, Runs: 809, HS: 112, AVE: 25.28, 50s: 3, 100s: 1, Ducks: 4
Hanuma Vihari in Tests
MT: 13, INN: 23, Runs: 684, HS: 111, AVE: 34.20, 50s: 4, 100s: 1, Ducks: 1
Vihari’s unbeaten knock of 40 helped India set a 229 target for South Africa albeit in a losing knock. The 28-year-old was in rhythm during India A’s recent South Africa tour – notching up three fifties in five innings.
However, with Rahane and Pujara finding form, coupled with Kohli’s return, Dravid’s men would hope to retain the tried and tested senior trio for the job at hand in Cape Town from Tuesday.