Virat Kohli is all but ready to return to Cape Town to lead India as it eyes a historic Test series victory in South Africa.
The 33-year-old missed the second Test in Johannesburg, where India lost to the determined Proteas, who equalised the series 1-1. On a rare occasion, Kohli missed a test with upper back spasms – his first international break with injury in nearly three years.
Kohli: I’m definitely fit for the 3rd SA v IND test but can’t risk Siraj because he’s not ready
Kohli’s presence would elevate India’s middle power status. However, recent test numbers for the Pujara-Kohli-Rahane trio have been underwhelming – a period that has been close to three years. Rahane’s slimming cost him the test vice-captain role as KL Rahul, taking away the tag of being an automatic pick.
Kohli’s long barren run
It has been 780 days since Kohli’s last International Hundreds – 136 innings against Bangladesh in the first Pink Ball Test in Kolkata, India.
Since then, Kohli has played in 25 Test innings, scoring 652 runs with an average of 26.08 and has only surpassed 50 in five runs. Kohli also had the most ducks by a professional Indian batsman during this period – a dubious record he shared with his mid-level partners Pujara and Rahane.
Virat Kohli in the test
mt: 98, Inn: 166, run: 7854, HS: 254, Avenue: 50.35, the 50s: 27, 100 seconds: 27, Duck: 14
Kohli since last test (November 23, 2019)
mt: 14, Inn: 25, run: 652, HS: 74, Avenue: 26.08, the 50s: 5. 100 seconds: 0, Duck: 4
During the World Test Championship era, Kohli batted six ducks and is second only to England’s Rory Burns (7) among all top batsmen in the world.
Meanwhile, Rahane and Pujara saved their places with 53 and 58 respectively in the second innings of the second Test. That means Hanuma Vihari could face a challenge upon Kohli’s return – with his signature game saving 23 of 167 deliveries against Australia in Sydney in early 2021, with just one Test in Johannesburg last week.
Cheteshwar Pujara in testing
mt: 94, Inn: 160, run: 6661, HS: 206 no, Avenue: 44.11, the 50s: 32, 100 seconds: 18, Duck: 11
Pujara since last test (January 4, 2019)
mt: 26, Inn: 46, run: 1235, HS: 91, Avenue: 27.44, the 50s: 12, 100 seconds: 0, Duck: 5
Ajinkya Rahane in the test
mt: 81, Inn: 138, run: 4921, HS: 188, Avenue: 39.05, the 50s: 25, 100 seconds: 12, Duck: 10
Rahane from January 1, 2020
mt: 18, Inn: 33, run: 809, HS: 112, Avenue: 25.28, the 50s: 3. 100 seconds: 1, Duck: 4
Hanuma Vihari in the test
mt: 13, Inn: twenty three, run: 684, HS: 111, Avenue: 34.20, the 50s: 4. 100 seconds: 1, Duck: 1
Vihari’s 40-match unbeaten run helped India set a target of 229 for South Africa despite losing the match. The 28-year-old kept pace in the India A’s most recent tour of South Africa – scoring three 50s in five innings.
However, with the recovery of Rahane and Pujara, coupled with the return of Kohli, Dravid’s men will be looking to keep the tried-and-true senior trio in Cape Town from Tuesday.