Virat Kohli will miss the first T20I against Afghanistan in Mohali on Friday. India coach Rahul Dravid confirmed on the eve of the match that Kohli would be unavailable for personal reasons, and would be back for the second and third games of the series in Indore and Bengaluru.
“Virat Kohli will miss the first game due to personal reasons,” Dravid said. “He will be playing from the second and third T20I.”
The three-match series against Afghanistan is notable for Kohli – and India captain Rohit Sharma – returning to T20Is for the first time since the T20 World Cup semi-final defeat to England in November 2022. Both players took a break from the format to focus on the longer formats with India playing the World Test Championship final and the ODI World Cup in 2023. Dravid said, “There’s been quite a few ICC events over the last two, three years, and a lot of them back to back. So there’s not been a lot of time in between these ICC events. At various stages, in the last couple of years that I’ve been here, we’ve had to prioritise certain formats, certain tournaments, simply because just the amount of cricket that is being played, and just managing the players, it’s impossible for all the players to be playing all the time.”
“The Afghanistan series is India’s last T20I assignment before the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and the USA in June, and represents the last chance outside the IPL – which is scheduled to run from March 29 to May 26 – for players to stake their claim for the tournament,” Dravid noted. “Even in this series, people such as [Jasprit] Bumrah, [Ravindra] Jadeja and [Mohammed] Siraj have missed out because keeping in mind the five Test matches that we have against England.”
Dravid also confirmed that Yashasvi Jaiswal would open along with Rohit in Mohali. With Kohli absent, India could move Shubman Gill – who usually opens the batting – to No. 3, or slot either Sanju Samson or Tilak Varma in at that position.