Kohli walks the Ponting path

Chopra: Kohli looked in complete control (2:00)

Aakash Chopra also thinks Rohit Sharma stands a good chance to play in South Africa and wonders if Cheteshwar Pujara missed out on a double-ton (2:00)

The Nagpur Test against Sri Lanka is Virat Kohli's 62nd and Cheteshwar Pujara's 53rd. They have both been part of 30 Indian wins, and a 31st seems imminent. Pujara's 143 here could be his 10th hundred in a Test win, and Kohli's 213 his ninth.

Already, Pujara has more hundreds in Test wins than all other Indian batsmen barring Sachin Tendulkar (20) and Rahul Dravid (15), and it looks like Kohli won't be tied with Virender Sehwag for too much longer.

Think about all the greats of Indian batting who made hundreds all over the world, and only rarely made one in a winning cause. Sunil Gavaskar scored 34 Test hundreds, more than anyone else for a long, long time, but only six - six! - in Indian wins.

Test-match batsmen are moulded by fate, the contours of their innings shaped by the teams they were destined to play for. Unlike any generation of Indian batsmen before them, the current one plays for a team habituated to winning, a team that has won 20 of its last 27 Tests.

Bowlers win Test matches. Batsmen do what they can to better their team's position - strengthen a good one, rectify a bad one, turn parity to superiority.

At various points during this run of 27 Tests, Pujara and Kohli have had to fight challenging conditions or good bowling attacks or bat in difficult situations. Their runs have often turned these situations around.

But Pujara and Kohli have found themselves batting when India are frontrunners far more often than occupants of Indian line-ups past. Batting is not necessarily easy in these situations - Kohli's 81 in Visakhapatnam, for instance, came when India had a first-innings lead of 200, but it was nonetheless a masterpiece on a pitch with treacherous low bounce - but quite often the bowlers are weary and the fields spread out.

This is perhaps truer in the case of Kohli. During their run of 20 wins in 27 Tests, India's average first-wicket partnership has been 35.54, while their average second-wicket stand has been a best-in-the-world 60.40. This means, crudely, that the average Kohli innings has begun with the scorecard reading 96 for 2.

So, even some of his best efforts in this period, were an elaboration of the solid foundations laid by the batsmen above him. When he made his 235 in Mumbai, he walked in with India 146 for 2 in response to England's first-innings 400. Plenty of work still needed to be done, but it wasn't 46 for 2.

Kohli was often compared to Ricky Ponting early in his career, for his confrontational attitude more than anything. Now it's perhaps even more apt: he is the alpha batsman in a team that wins often, and if Ponting followed one of Test cricket's great opening pairs into the middle, Kohli often follows the incredibly prolific second-wicket pair of M Vijay and Pujara.

For most of their careers, Brian Lara didn't have either a match-winning bowling attack around him or top-class batting support, while Tendulkar had one but not the other; Ponting had both. So does Kohli, at least in this phase of his career.

Like so many Ponting hundreds, Kohli's double in Nagpur - his fifth overall - was an innings of relentless, remorseless feasting on an already wilting opposition. It was exactly what he had to do, and it was exactly what he did. When he walked in, India were already in the lead and only two down. He came in after a second-wicket stand of 209. Right from the time he arrived, he was faced with damage-limitation fields.

But even in those circumstances, it takes an exceptional batsman to score 213 seemingly risk-free runs at a strike-rate close to 80. When he was at the crease, the batsmen at the other end, and extras, scored 154 off 299 balls - that's a strike-rate of 51.51.

This is what Kohli can do. He took a lot of singles and twos to fielders in the deep, but often he made them possible, usually by taking balls from off stump or just outside and working them into leg-side gaps. Every now and then he put away a bad or marginally bad ball, but he also manufactured boundaries off reasonably good ones.

A couple of examples stood out on day three, both against Dilruwan Perera's offspin. On 111, he received an off-stump ball that pitched just short of a good length; Kohli rocked back and created just enough room for his arms to extend into a punch that beat mid-off diving to his right. On 188, he leaned forward to a flighted, good-length ball pitching two feet outside off stump and used all the power in his bottom wrist to whip it hard and flat over the midwicket boundary.

Sri Lanka could find no way to stop him or slow him down, and in the end they just crossed their fingers and waited for a mistake. Ponting gave numerous oppositions this feeling in his pomp; over the last couple of years, Kohli has done this too.

In just a few weeks, though, India will begin a journey that will test just how good they are. It will ask their bowlers if they can be just as threatening away from their comfort zone, and their top three if they can be just as solid. The answers to those two questions will shape the questions that Kohli is asked.