Australia's cricket chief Tuesday played down the impact of India captain Virat Kohli missing three Tests to be at the birth of his first child, insisting the four-match series still had plenty to offer.
The 32-year-old and his Bollywood actress wife Anushka Sharma are expecting a baby in January and Kohli has been given permission by the Indian cricket board to return home after the first Test in Adelaide, which begins on 17 December.
While the absence of the superstar batsman could improve Australia's chances of regaining the Border-Gavaskar trophy, his absence is a blow to broadcasters and cricket chiefs already feeling the effects of a pandemic-affected year.
"When they announced their pregnancy earlier, I think it was always on the cards," Cricket Australia interim chief executive Nick Hockley told Sydney radio station SEN.
"We're thrilled Virat is coming out for three ODIs, three T20s, the first ever day-night Test against India and we have to respect the fact he wants to be there for the birth of his first child."
Hockley admitted Kohli's absence was a huge disappointment for cricket fans.
"Clearly, (he is) one of the game's absolute superstars. We're looking forward to seeing him here for seven out of the 10 matches," he said.
"You've got a good number of players from both sides who played the last series in Australia which India won. There'll be a huge amount to play for ... it will be fascinating series."
It would be unlikely for Kohli to return for the later Tests, said Hockley.
"I think it's pretty challenged (for him to return). Obviously a mandatory 14-day quarantine period," he said. "Logistically it's very much more complicated and being brutal it's much harder than normal."
India are due leave for Australia this week, where they will spend two weeks in quarantine in Sydney before the first one-day international on 27 November.
Kohli will lead India in three ODIs, three Twenty20 internationals and the first Test, a day-night match in Adelaide.
The second Test starts in Melbourne on 26 December followed by matches in Sydney on 7 January and Brisbane on 15 January, all played under strict bio-security protocols.
While Kohli will miss part of the series, another key batsman, Rohit Sharma, has been added to the Test squad after being initially left out because of injury worries.
Find latest and upcoming tech gadgets online on Tech2 Gadgets. Get technology news, gadgets reviews & ratings. Popular gadgets including laptop, tablet and mobile specifications, features, prices, comparison.
Kohli will leave the tour after the first of four Tests, due to start in Adelaide on 17 December, for the birth of his first child.
Though Ajinkya Rahane is the vice-captain on paper, Akhtar sees Rohit taking over leadership duties from Kohli following the first Test at the Adelaide Oval.
India captain Virat Kohli will leave after the opening Test in Adelaide as he has been granted paternity leave by the BCCI to be with his actor wife Anushka Sharma for the birth of their first child in early January.