Kohli Returns as Gaikwad ruled out for SA vs Ind first Test

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Virat Kohli has left South Africa for personal reasons and is expected to rejoin the Test squad for the Boxing Day match in Centurion. Kohli did not play in the three-day intra-squad match, which was the only red-ball outing for several senior players including captain Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah, before the two-Test series.

Ruturaj Gaikwad will not play in the two-Test series due to a finger injury. Abhimanyu Easwaran, currently with the India A squad in South Africa, is likely to replace Gaikwad as the reserve opener. Rohit and Yashasvi Jaiswal are expected to open the batting, as they did in India’s most recent Test assignment in the Caribbean in July-August.

Abhimanyu scored an unbeaten 61 in the practice game in Pretoria before being retired by the team management. He is expected to play in the second four-day match for India A against South Africa A before joining the national squad for the New Year’s Test in Cape Town.

Gaikwad is expected to return to the BCCI’s National Cricket Academy in Bengaluru after sustaining the injury in the second ODI against South Africa. India gave a debut to Rajat Patidar in the series-deciding final ODI, which they won.

India’s Test squad has been training in Pretoria under Rahul Dravid’s coaching staff. KL Rahul and Mukesh Kumar will join the Test squad after a day’s rest following the ODI series. Shreyas Iyer, who was part of the ODI series, was released from the squad after the first ODI to prepare for the Tests.

Iyer and Rahul will both be returning to Test cricket after an extended absence. Both last played for India during the Border-Gavaskar series against Australia in February. Rahul is likely to take over wicketkeeping duties for the Tests.

The upcoming series is India’s second assignment in the new World Test Championship cycle for 2023-25. They won the first Test in the Caribbean and were denied an opportunity to win the second due to rain.

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