Batting at Tendulkar's No. 4 spot, Kohli's fifth Test century made sure the South Africans didn't miss the great man. (AP Photo)
India 24 for 2 at the Wanderers. Sachin Tendulkar could have stabilised that scorecard, but Dhoni had reminded his team on the eve of the Test match: "Sachin's gone now; we have to move on." And Virat Kohli ensured his captain's advice was followed.
A fifth Test century on a grassy track in Johannesburg had all the ingredients of an Indian collapse, especially the way Dale Steyn started. Murali Vijay drove him straight, which possibly turned the Steyn-gun on. The ball started rearing off a good length and bouncers turned lethal.
Shikhar Dhawan became the first casualty and Morne Morkel arriving from the first floor took Vijay out of the equation. In came Virat Kohli, at No. 4, to join wall-in-the-making Cheteshwar Pujara.
Steyn was adamant at reminding Kohli about the first one-dayer at the same venue. The Indian was struck in the ribs then, which followed a local broadcaster running footage of that ball with the caption "Kohli - Softened up".
Probably Kohli had that in his mind too, which turned him ever so dogged with every ball he faced. His presence at the crease had a Tendulkar-like calming influence, though the youthful adrenaline did gush up occasionally and once cost India in the form of Pujara. The India No. 3 was sold a dummy by Kohli to be run out when both had added 89 and looked inseparable.
Steyn had a few things to say to Kohli, but uncharacteristically Kohli didn't retort. In fact, he brought his bat and pad even closer together, making it even tougher for the Proteas to dislodge him.
After Kohli had seen the difficult period through, the augment of spinners brought some welcome runs. Legspinner Imran Tahir and part-timer JP Duminy offered full tosses and long hops with incessant regularity. Rahane, who joined Kohli in the penultimate over before tea Rohit Sharma left, was served help-yourself stuff by Tahir to get going with back-to-back boundaries.
Kohli, meanwhile, continued to grow in confidence. What possibly took South Africa aback was Kohli's mute response. Never once did he have anything to say to the South Africans until the couple through mid-wicket that brought his fifth Test century accompanied by, maybe, a few swears.
"I know Virat is a very moody and confident type of player. So the most important thing for him right now is to get his mind into that confident state," Kohli's coach at Royal Challengers Bangalore had said before the Wanderers Test began. "If you see him walk very confidently to the wicket, he's a very destructive player. He needs to be in that mood."
On Wednesday, he was in that confident mood. Destruction can come later.
Virat Kohli c Duminy b Kallis 119 (181 balls, 18 fours)