One of the most anticipated match-ups of the South Africa-India series is between Virat Kohli and AB de Villiers. They are the superstars of their respective sides, team-mates at the Royal Challengers Bangalore and great mates off the field but Kohli confirmed that once they step over the white line, their cosiness will replaced by fiery competitiveness.
"AB is a great friend of mine," Kohli said on Saturday. "I respect the way he plays the game and I have always respected him as a person. When we are playing against each other - not that we cross the line with each other, we are just not like that with each other, we can't - but it's about wanting to get AB out. And I'm sure the opposition want the same when I play or when [Ajinkya] Rahane plays or [Cheteshwar] Pujara plays."
But even though the Kohli-de Villiers clash could make most of the headlines, Kohli played down suggestions that the outcome of the series could hinge on which of the two bats better. Instead, he said it would take a collective effort to claim bragging rights over the next month.
"Everyone wants to be the stand-out player in the series and make contributions towards the team winning the series but unless you have that as a group, you don't have many chances of winning the series. Some people might have brilliant individual performances but then you will always be fine with one or two people doing well," Kohli said. "Right now with the kind of hunger we have in the group, everyone wants an opportunity. That's a very exciting thing.
"I can't speak for the opposition because AB hasn't played much Test cricket since he played against us and he is coming back after a while. Setting apart all of the spice created from the outside about the series, the team that plays well together has the best chance of winning."
De Villiers has only played one Test since injury and a self-imposed sabbatical kept him out of the longest format for 23 months since January 2016. He made his comeback against Zimbabwe in the four-day, day-night Test over Boxing Day, where he was also named stand-in captain for the ill Faf du Plessis, whom de Villiers handed the reins to last year. As (mis)fortune would have it, de Villiers also ended up keeping wicket in the match because Quinton de Kock suffered a slight hamstring strain. Du Plessis and de Kock are expected to be fit to take on India and a selection headache looms over how to include de Villiers in the Test team.