Batting legend Sunil Gavaskar believes the unavailability of Virat Kohli for the major part of the upcoming Test series against Australia shouldn’t cause anxiety in the visitors’ camp as Indian players tend to raise their game in the captain’s absence.
The battle for the prestigious Border-Gavaskar Trophy will kick-start with the pink-ball affair at the Adelaide Oval on December 17. Melbourne will host the second Test from December 26 while the third and fourth Tests will be played in Sydney Cricket Ground (January 7-11) and Brisbane's Gabba (January 15-19), respectively.
Kohli will miss the last three Tests due to the birth of his first child. The Indian captain and his wife Anushka Sharma are expecting a child in January, and he has been granted permission by the BCCI to return home after the Test series opener.
“If you actually have a look, India have won every time Virat wasn’t there, be it the Dharamshala Test against Australia, the Afghanistan Test, Nidahas Trophy or the Asia Cup in 2018. Indian players do tend to raise their game when he is not around. They understand they have to make up for his absence,” Gavaskar told TOI.
He, however, believes leading the side in Kohli’s absence will give Ajinkya Rahane a sense of security.
“It’s going to be tough for Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. Both these players have to bat out of their skin. Captaincy will actually help Rahane. He will feel a lot more secure and in control of situations. The selection committee is clear about who should lead in Virat’s absence and he has done well as a Test captain,” Gavaskar remarked.
Under Kohli’s leadership, India won their maiden Test series on Australian soil in 2018-19 and Pujara was the hero with the bat in that series, scoring 521 from 4 Tests, including three centuries.
“Pujara should be allowed to play the game he knows best,” said Gavaskar. “That’s what got him here. You don’t tamper with a player’s natural aptitude or temperament. Like you never told Sehwag how to play, nobody should be telling Pujara how to get runs as long as he is getting the runs and the hundreds.”
“If he is let alone and no pressure is put on him, that’s going to work in India’s favour. He is so rock steady, the others can score around him and play shots,” he explained.