The decision has come as a shock and a blow for Rohit Sharma’s India as the 35-year-old had been expected to play a key role in the series. It follows the decision of England’s Harry Brook, who has also withdrawn from the tour for personal reasons.
“Virat has spoken to captain Rohit Sharma, the team management and the selectors and has emphasised that while representing the country has always been his top priority, certain personal situations demand his presence and undivided attention,” the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said in a statement.
It read: “The BCCI respects his decision and the board and team management has extended its support to the star batter and is confident in the abilities of the remaining squad members to step up and deliver commendable performances in the Test series.
“The BCCI requests the media and fans to respect Virat Kohli’s privacy during this time and refrain from speculating on the nature of his personal reasons. The focus should remain on supporting the Indian cricket team as they embark on the upcoming challenges in the Test series.”
Kohli played in India’s previous Test series, a 1-1 draw in South Africa, and then missed the first home T20 international against Afghanistan for personal reasons, before returning for the final two matches.
The statement added that a replacement would be called up to the squad soon. India had only previously announced their 16-man squad for the first two Test matches. Shubman Gill and Shreyas Iyer make up the other middle-order batters in the squad, although KL Rahul could be selected as a batter, with the hosts having a plethora of alternative wicketkeeping options available to them.
The first Test match of the five-Test series starts on Thursday 25 January at the Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium in Hyderabad, with a start time of 4am GMT.