'Test hundred most satisfying' - Kohli
Virat Kohli's emergence as a permanent occupant of the batting slot left vacant by Sourav Ganguly was perhaps the only plus for India from the embarrassing Australia tour last season. Kohli has already grown to become India's leading one-day batsmen, and with two hundreds and two half-centuries in his last five Test innings, he is slowly cracking the five-day game as well.
Kohli has experienced several highs at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, though most have come during IPL and Champions League Twenty20 campaigns.
On Sunday, he completed his second Test century, which allowed India to virtually level the game against New Zealand at the end of the first innings, leaving Kohli more thrilled than after his Twenty20 hijinks.
"It's always satisfying to get a Test hundred," he said. "People asked me this earlier as well, which hundred is most special to you and I said the hundred in Adelaide against Australia. I didn't have that feeling ever in my life, before or after - and I felt it today again. I think that is the most satisfying, when you're being tested and your patience is being tested, your technique is tested and you manage to score a hundred - it always pleases a batsman."
Soon after reaching triple-digits, though, Kohli shouldered arms to an indipper from Tim Southee, which cut off his innings at 103. "That was the only ball in my innings in which I didn't look at the bowler's hand. That ball he bowled crossed seam and I didn't look. That was a lapse in concentration and you just need one to get out in international cricket. Again, it's a lesson for me to be learnt and hopefully when I cross that 100 mark next time I can make it a big one."
One of the features of Kohli's century was the patience he showed early in his innings, displaying a willingness to leave the ball - an aspect of his cricket that he said he was working on. "In the first Test I thought I played too many attacking shots because we hadn't played any practice match and we were playing a Test after seven months," he said.
"Personally, I thought it was difficult to adapt suddenly. And then we batted first too. Unless you have played some practice games and are in that mindset - that makes a difference. In the first Test, my bat went instinctively for some shots, but it wasn't my intention to play the ball. So I worked on that for this game. I thought that they would bowl in the areas that I have got out before and try to get me hitting in the gaps. So like I did in Australia where I let the bowler come to me, I thought I'll leave the ball more and defend more."
India's bowlers backed up his effort by wheedling out nine second-innings wickets, leaving India facing a target of around 250. It will be one of India's highest successful chases if they pull it off, but Kohli was confident the home side had the edge entering the fourth day. "We'd like to think so (that the match is tilted towards India)," he said. "The morning session was really nice for them. But now that we look back after taking nine wickets, it played in our favour, because there are still two more days to go. And as a side setting a total, you always have that in mind - that if you lose wickets, the other side has two days to score the runs. Tomorrow if we take an early wicket, we have a lot of time to chase down that score."
One of the reasons for Kohli's optimism was the benign pitch. "The wicket doesn't have that much," he said. "Their seam bowlers bowled well in the morning. I think the morning freshness of the wicket that stays for about an hour is the only factor, and they used that well. Apart from that, if we apply ourselves, I think we'll be in a good position."
India no longer have the services of their fourth-innings specialist VVS Laxman, and the tricky target they face on Monday will be another examination for Kohli and the other youngsters in the rebuilt middle-order, testing their readiness for a long run in the Test side.
Siddarth Ravindran is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo