Virat Kohli, with an intimidating steel, continues to torment England in this Test series

In this week's column, Dileep Premachandran focuses on the unrivalled performances of India captain Virat Kohli.

Virat Kohli will resume Day 4 of the Mumbai Test on 147. Rafiq Maqbool / AP Photo
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Two days before India began their series in England in 2014, I asked Virat Kohli how much it would mean to him to do well.

“This is a pretty special place to play cricket,” he said.

“I’ll be playing a Test at Lord’s for the first time. I have never played Test cricket here before and I am really looking forward to it. I have some goals I want to achieve, and I have been thinking about them.”

He finished the series with 134 runs from 10 innings, and the team manager made snide remarks about his girlfriend’s presence during the early stages of the tour.

When he got back to India, Kohli went straight to Mumbai to spend a couple of days with the man he had replaced as India’s No 4 — Sachin Tendulkar.

At that stage, he had made 1,855 runs at 39.46 from 29 Tests.

Those were decent numbers, but not what you would expect from someone who had been earmarked as the future of Indian batsmanship from the time he was a teenager.

In Mumbai, he went into the nets and practised while Tendulkar watched and suggested a few tweaks and alterations.

In 23 Tests since, including the ongoing one in Mumbai, Kohli has made 2,251 runs at 64.31. Nine of his 15 Test hundreds have come in this period.

On Saturday, it was as though we had journeyed back in time to Tendulkar’s halcyon years.

Only, instead of “Sa-chin, Sa-chin”, the chant that swept around the ground — 19,444 came in to watch, not bad for a format supposed to be in terminal decline — was “Kohli, Kohli”.

And how he obliged. Having arrived at the crease to face the third ball of the day, after Cheteshwar Pujara opted to shoulder arms to an incoming delivery from Jake Ball, he got started with three precise deflections down to third man.

Then, as Murali Vijay took charge against the spinners, Kohli was content to coast in his partner’s slipstream.

They added 116 in 212 balls before a poor shot from Vijay allowed England to roar back into contention. Karun Nair failed to make the most of another chance, Parthiv Patel nicked Joe Root behind, and Ravichandran Ashwin fell to a stunning reflex catch from Keaton Jennings — the century-making debutant — at forward short leg.

At 307 for six, India were no longer even sure of achieving parity. But such tight games of cricket often hinge on one incident, and that arrived a few minutes later when Kohli, on 68, smashed one straight back at Adil Rashid. He could not hold on.

Ravindra Jadeja added 57 with Kohli, and when he left, the astonishingly poised Jayant Yadav came in to give his captain company. By then, Kohli was batting on another plane, even on a pitch where you could glimpse plumes of dust going up where the ball landed.

He cut and drove the spinners beautifully and was no less harsh on James Anderson and Chris Woakes, barely used during the day.

Having taken 111 balls for his 50, he raced to a hundred in a further 76. With Yadav growing in confidence and surviving a caught-behind appeal — England had wasted their two reviews by then — the partnership was worth 87 by stumps.

The lead, on a pitch that will deteriorate into a sandpit soon enough, is already 51.

Before this series, Kohli played down any talk of revenge or atonement for 2014. The hubris of old is gone, replaced by steel that is intimidating.

If England did not rate him after 2014, they certainly do now.

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