Former India cricketer Sanjay Manjrekar feels skipper Virat Kohli’s absence after the opening Test is a massive setback for visitors. Team India is scheduled to play four-Test match against Australia in the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, while Kohli will return to India after the opening game in Adelaide. The Indian skipper has been granted the paternity leave for the birth of his first child.

Cricketer-turned commentator Manjrekar said that the Australia series is a test of the depth of India’s cricket talent in red-ball cricket.

“Kohli not being there, after the first Test is a massive setback. In foreign conditions, Kohli is half the Indian batting, Pujara stepped up last time in Australia, Kohli has been India’s most dependable player in foreign conditions,” Manjrekar told news agency ANI.

“So his absence will be a huge setback. This particular series against Australia is a test of the depth of India’s cricket talent in Tests,” Manjrekar added.

The former cricketer further said that in Kohli’s absence, his deputy Ajinkya Rahane should bat at the crucial no.4 position against Australia with Hanuma Vihari and Shubman Gill follow him in the batting order.

“In Virat’s absence, Ajinkya Rahane should step up and bat at number four. Hanuma Vihari can bat at number five, if Shubman is tried in the middle order, then he should bat at number six,” Manjrekar further said.

Manjrekar emphasized that it’s a question of the entire batting line-up stepping up in Kohli’s absence against Australia.

“Rahane has been averaging more than 50 in his last nine Tests, we will have to wait and see whether Rahane steps up. In fact, it’s a question of the entire batting line-up stepping up. We have only seen them in white-ball cricket,” he added.

The four-match Test series is scheduled to start from December 17 with a Day/Night Test at Adelaide Oval. Team India will also miss the services of senior pacer Ishant Sharma who is ruled out of the series due to injury.