Indian skipper Virat Kohli will return home after the opening test of the four-game series against Australia to be with his wife actress Anushka Sharma as their first child is born. And former Australian cricketer Geoff Lawson believes India without Kohli will be like the Australians without star players Steve Smith and David Warner.
The 32-year-old captain, who is expected to become a father in January 2021, has been granted paternity leave from the Cricket Control Board of India (BCCI) and is reportedly returning to India from Down Under after the first test in Australia began. December 17 at the Adelaide Oval.
Lawson, in his column for the Sydney Morning Herald, said Kohli’s absence would be greatly felt not for his batting efforts, but also for the way he lifts the psyche of the entire team.
“India without Virat Kohli will be like Australia without Smith and Warner. It’s not just the races he does, but the way he uplifts the psyche of the whole group,” Lawson said.
Notably, Kohli is his team’s top points scorer in the game’s longest format with a total of 7,240 runs in 86 matches he played for India with an average of 53.62. In fact, Kohli is currently placed just behind Smith in the ICC Test ranking for batsmen.
India are the reigning Border-Gavaskar Trophy champions after becoming the first Asian team to defeat Australia in a series of Down Under tests in 2018-19 under the leadership of Virat Kohli.
Australia missed the services of former skipper Steve Smith and former vice-captain David Warner, both of whom missed the final series due to their one-year suspension for their involvement in the South Africa bulletproofing scandal in March 2018.
And Lawson believes Australia’s biggest strength heading into the next round will be that they would have a lot of stick options compared to what they had in the 2018-19 test round.
“Australia have progressed on the back of their withdrawal with England, then beating a New Zealand well below strength and hitting a classic Pakistan at home last summer. And as the international season looming, Australia’s No. 1 unusual situation: there are options for batting spots, ”he said.
However, Lawson admitted that India will continue to pose a tough challenge for Australia as they are the defending champions and their pace attack works well.
“Indian cricketers will expect the unexpected. They will be a handful, as they defend the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, first won on Australian soil two years ago, and their squad of Fast bowling continues to grow, “said the former Australian cricketer.
In addition to the test series, the two teams are expected to play three series of ODI matches and as many T20Is, starting November 27 at the Adelaide Oval.