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The leading contenders to replace Virat Kohli as India’s Test captain

by Wisden Staff 5 minute read

Virat Kohli ended his record-breaking stint as India’s Test captain on Saturday, announcing his decision to step away from the role he’d occupied for seven years.

Who will be the man to follow him? Here’s a look at some possible options for India as they embark on a new era.

Rohit Sharma

He missed the Tests against South Africa due to injury but Rohit has established himself as an integral part of India’s set-up in the last couple of years, averaging 58.48 with the bat since taking on the role of opener in 2019. Having replaced Kohli as India’s captain in white-ball cricket will he now be entrusted with becoming an all-format skipper?

KL Rahul

Rahul has enjoyed a resurgence in India’s Test side since last August, when injuries elsewhere opened the door for a first appearance in the format since 2019. He grabbed the opportunity with both hands, hitting a century against England at Lord’s before reaching three figures at Centurion against South Africa in December. An injury to Kohli saw him take on the role of stand-in captain at Johannesburg – he celebrated the promotion with a half-century but proved unable to halt the Proteas in their fourth-innings chase. At 29, he represents a younger option than Rohit, who turns 35 this April.

Ajinkya Rahane

Twelve months ago, Rahane – standing in for Kohli, who was on paternity leave – led India to a stunning series win in Australia. In a win at the MCG, he’d reeled off a masterful 112 and his stock was high. But since that series there have been just three half-centuries in 13 Tests and just 460 runs overall at a lowly average of 20. The loss of the vice-captaincy ahead of the South Africa Test series felt indicative of Rahane’s place in the pecking order and taking the leadership seems unlikely while he fights for his place as a batter.

Jasprit Bumrah

A fast-bowling captain? Australia have enjoyed their opening series with Pat Cummins at the helm and Bumrah has been named vice-captain for the upcoming ODIs against South Africa. There aren’t any questions over his place in a first-choice XI, but the unpredictable life of a fast bowler – injuries and periods of rest – count against him.

Ravichandran Ashwin

Noted as one of the most analytical minds in the game, Ashwin also stands as one of the most experienced members of the current India set-up. He was the leading wicket-taker in Test cricket in 2021, demonstrating the off-spinner’s continuing influence with the ball, though questions still linger over his place when India travel overseas; he was overlooked for the Test series away to England last year and was unable to star against South Africa.


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