Who can replace Virat Kohli as India’s Test Captain? A List of Probable Candidates

As Virat Kohli leaves the scene as India’s Test captain with a proud record under his belt, all eyes are on BCCI and the national selection panel led by Chetan Sharma to pick the right individual to take his legacy forward and keep India a force to be reckoned with in the years to follow. […]
 
Who can replace Virat Kohli as India’s Test Captain? A List of Probable Candidates

As Virat Kohli leaves the scene as India’s Test captain with a proud record under his belt, all eyes are on BCCI and the national selection panel led by Chetan Sharma to pick the right individual to take his legacy forward and keep India a force to be reckoned with in the years to follow.

As India are approaching a transition phase, with few underperformers likely to be phased out and some longstanding warhorses nearing their twilight, it becomes doubly important for Sharma & co to identify the right candidate to take over the reins from Kohli.

With the next cycle of overseas tours beginning in less than two years from now and the World Test Championship (WTC) trophy a crown to keep an eye on, the selectors will have a headache on how to go about replacing Kohli at the helm. Should they take a futuristic call or make the short-term plug is going to be a major consideration.

Keeping all things in mind, here is a list of potential captaincy candidates for the selectors and the Indian board to look at.

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Who can replace Virat Kohli as India’s Test Captain? A List of Probable Candidates
Who can replace Virat Kohli as India’s Test Captain? A List of Probable Candidates

Who is going to replace Virat Kohli as India’s Test captain?

Five potential Test captaincy replacements for Virat Kohli

1. Rohit Sharma

The first name in consideration to replace Kohli is Rohit, who has only grown in stature within Indian cricket across formats in the last one year. Appointed the new white-ball skipper, Rohit has undergone a major transformation as a Test cricketer. He was one of the heroes for India in Test matches last year, playing a major role in away victories over Australia and England and at home versus the three lions.

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Rohit was made the vice-captain for the just-concluded Test series against South Africa but couldn’t make the trip due to a hamstring injury. Fitness and injuries are perhaps the only negatives holding Rohit’s Test captaincy ascent back at this stage. The 34-year-old is approaching deeper into thirties and endures a heavy workload because of his all-format duties.

2. KL Rahul

Rahul is more of a long-term captaincy candidate than Rohit to replace Virat Kohli. Rahul also has had anotable revival to his Test match career with the bat. After a sustained period of struggles from 2018 to late 2019, Rahul was brought back into the playing XI for the tour of England in 2021. Making his opportunity count, he emerged as India’s second higest run-getter of the series, before going on to make a match-winning hundred in Boxing Day Test in Centurion.

From England to South Africa, Rahul has had a rise in stature within the Indian set-up. He has been made the vice-captain in ODIs and T20Is and led India for the first time in Tests in Johannesburg in absence of Rohit and Kohli. Rahul is only 29 and recent signs of resurgence to his Test batting only further make his case strong as Kohli’s potential replacement.

3. Ravichandran Ashwin

Hailed as one of the brightest thinkers of the game, Ravichandran Ashwin could also be an option to replace Kohli at the helm. The veteran off-spinner is one of the greats of the modern game, with 430 Test wickets from 84 Tests at 24.38 and 2,844 runs at 26.83. Ashwin has prior experience of captaincy a team in the IPL as well.

Ashwin didn’t have the most fruitful tour of South Africa but that isn’t expected to diminish his status and value in the system. The 35-year-old has been one of the world’s best all-conditions Test spinners over the last three years.

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The only hurdles to Ashwin’s Test captaincy appointment would be his age and India’s inclination towards a four-pronged pace attack when they play abroad. Ashwin is still India’s No.1 spinner. But he isn’t anymore the team’s No.1 allrounder. That tag is held firmly at this stage by Ravindra Jadeja.

When Jadeja is around, India play him at 6 and use him as a defensive spin option to rotate their four seamers, including Shardul Thakur at 8. But when he is injured, Ashwin doesn’t quite make for an ideal batting replacement in this phase of his career, as seen during the difficult series against South Africa.

4. Jasprit Bumrah

Let none of his second-innings struggles in the final two Tests in South Africa fool our judgement. Jasprit Bumrah is still inarguably one of the world’s best fast-bowlers, if not the best, with an array of skills that help him succeed in all conditions.

Bumrah has taken 113 wickets from his 27 Tests at 22.85 since a famous debut back in January 2018. His record and performances over the years have earned Bumrah the status of world’s premier quick and easily one of India’s most cricketers.

The 28-year-old quick is also being seen as a leadership material in the set-up, reflected in his appointment as the vice-captain for the ODI leg of the series in South Africa.

The unorthodox right-arm pacer may also be in consideration for Test captaincy. But there are two major issues: one is tactical and the second is physical. Both are interconnected. If India do appoint Bumrah as their next Test captain, they’ll have to do away with their policy of him skipping home Tests and play him every game, making injuries more likely.

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Only two of Bumrah’s 27 Tests have come in India, where the presence of Umesh Yadav and Mohammad Shami, and now Mohammed Siraj, allow India to rest their premier speedster and keep him fresh for overseas tours. If India part ways with this tactical ploy, they’ll have to field Bumrah at home and away, which will increase his workload and chances of him getting injured.

Bumrah’s unorthodox action, as is well documented, already takes an enormous toll on his upper body. Last thing India would want is for him to breakdown before an important series overseas.

5. Rishabh Pant

A left-field selection for Test captaincy could be Pant, the team’s first-choice wicketkeeper-batter, who ended the series in South Africa with a great hundred in the decider in Cape Town. Pant boasts of a rare trinity of hundreds for a keeper in England, Australia and South Africa and averages an impressive 39.43 after 28 Tests.

The 24-year-old has age on his side and could be seen as a Test captaincy option in the mould of great MS Dhoni, who also was considered a left-field pick when he took over the reigns back in 2008. Pant has some captaincy experience under his belt due to his time with Delhi Capitals (DC) in the IPL.

The selectors, however, may just withdraw from walking down this path, considering Pant’s tendency to be in discussions for his high-risk approach that divides opinions. Pant faced heavy criticism for showing lack of game awareness when he danced down the track and played a hoick to edge the ball against Kagiso Rabada in the decisive second-innings of the Jo’burg Test. Pant had only come in and faced two balls, while Rabada was delivering his seventh straight over of a challenging spell.

Previous to his memorable century in Cape Town, Pant endured a slump in his returns in England and South Africa, showcasing very little confidence in his defensive game. At a time when the youngster needs more comforting space as a batter and is still developing as a keeper, would the selectors burden him with captaincy in the toughest format?