A statement of intent from the skipper

Kohli showed his mates how it is done

Virat Kohli's over-the-top celebration after bringing up his 21st career century wasn't an unusual sight. He has done it many times before and you will see it in future as well but this one carried a message beyond his pure personal delight.

It was a statement of intent if he told his team-mates 'this is how you do it', he warned his rivals, 'mess with me at your own peril' (remember Faf du Plessis' take on the best batsman?).

After twin batting debacles in the first Test, the Indian skipper gave a clarion call to his fellow batsmen to show intent in the middle. By intent he didn't just mean hitting boundaries. For him it was all about being positive out there in the middle. And he led by example not just in words but in deed as well.

"Intent doesn't really mean that you have to go out there and start playing shots from ball one," Kohli emphasised when asked to elaborate on it. "Intent is there in leaving the ball, in defending as well. Intent is about being vocal out there in calling. All those things count as intent. Just the way your body language, the way you are thinking about the game. It gets portrayed in your body language. People can tell if you are playing with intent or not. There will be tough moments, but I think even the tough moments one needs to overcome through intent," he explained.

All this and more was at show during Kohli's six and half hour stint spread over two days. Admittedly, it was a lot easier track to bat on than the one he encountered in Newlands. The absence of big lateral movement was right up his alley but still it was a quality attack that produced wicket-taking deliveries every now and then. He especially struggled with fast incoming deliveries and once narrowly survived an lbw shout off Lungi Ngidi, a thin inside edge saving the day for him on the second day in the final session. There were a handful of instances when he felt for the ball in the corridor but luckily the nick eluded him all the time.

These typically plant seeds of doubt in a batsman's mind. Your feet movement becomes uncertain and your judgement of line and length gets affected. Not for Kohli though. He was quickly getting over those setbacks quickly. If he missed one on the off, he was prepared to dispatch the next through cover. If he failed to pick an in-ducking ball, he was ready to flick the next past mid-wicket. It's not like the other top-order batsmen don't know how to do it. They too have the technical acumen and game sense to come through such tests but where Kohli scores over them is in his fortitude.

"Defending or leaving the ball, you need precise footwork to do that and that only comes with a clear head and a positive intent in your head," he had said. "Being positive doesn't mean you are scoring off every ball. But it's understanding that you are in control of what you want to do. That's how I break down intent."

With wickets falling at regular intervals at the other end, and some in amateurish fashion, Kohli could so easily have gotten frustrated and thrown his wicket away. On another day, he may well have but not on this occasion. He was determined to ride over the bounce and tide over the challenge. And he did so with a certain swagger that received a pat from all South African players and a standing ovation from the sparse crowd.

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