India v England, 4th Test, Nagpur, 3rd day December 15, 2012

Kohli takes pride in 'learning innings'

Early this year, Virat Kohli scored a scarcely believable 133 off 86 to help India chase 321 in 36.4 overs. In his last Test innings of the year, Kohli showed the other side of his batting by scoring 103 off 295 balls. These two completely different innings have proved he is India's player of the year and their impact has been similar.

The first innings - a blazing century in Hobart which kept India alive in the CB Series only for Sri Lanka to crush their hopes two days later - showed Kolhi the power of a free mind with nothing to lose.

This latest hundred has emphasised what can be achieved through patience, an innings which has kept India alive in the series, even if the state of a slow and low pitch suggests that England are likely to crush India's hopes again.

Kohli, though, is wiser after the effort. "I didn't think about the runs, I didn't think about the number of balls I was playing, I was just batting," he said. "You just keep batting, you just keep watching the ball and eventually you get the right results. I was pretty pleased to bat for long hours in this game and that is something you will need to do in future in Test matches. It was a learning innings for me."

What had been going wrong earlier in the series then? "Three times I got 20," he said. "I probably got a good ball in Ahmedabad in the first innings, and I made a few mistakes after that. Sometimes you need that bit of luck, you get beaten and then sometimes you know today is the right day and you put your foot down and concentrate for long hours.

"I was waiting for this one innings, I was not doubting myself at all. I was working hard for the last one month and eventually if you keep working hard these little things happen in cricket."

Kohli said he and MS Dhoni, who scored 99, had to stay patient. "It was challenging for both of us," he said. "It was a slowish wicket, not that easy to get the ball away. I had to show some patience and I just thought of applying myself and not think of anything else. It was all about showing patience and just watching the ball and reacting to it rather than thinking about what we are going to be at the end of the day or the end of the session."

Not thinking about where they will be at the end of the day actually put them on the path to a strong position, but a mix of slow run rate - that can't be helped because of the slow pitch - and late wickets relinquished that position. India still see a way to win, though, said Kohli.

"You get some runs' lead and you put the opposition under pressure," he said. "It won't be easy to defend all day. That is not something you can do every Test match. We will just be looking for the one opening and probably get two-three wickets and you never know where the game goes from there."

India, 2-1 down in the series, still trail by 33, and will need all the help from the pitch and England to bowl the opposition out in four sessions at most, and then chase the total down. The pitch has given the bowlers nothing at all. Kohli said that can change.

"The wicket hasn't changed much," he said, "but I think the cracks are opening up slowly so you might see a completely different wicket tomorrow. The spinners might come into play a bit more. This is kind of wicket where you need to apply yourself the whole time, you just can't relax."

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo