There was a scramble in the crowd as soon as the second Indian wicket fell. They had barely moved from the little pockets of shade afforded by the second tier stands in Rajkot, but now they careened into the sunshine, phones out, hands waving, and smiles as bright as the sun.
Virat Kohli was coming out to bat.
He wouldn't have seen the stir he caused. The man gets into a zone when he's batting where only he, the ball, and his routines exist. He came down the dressing room steps fiddling with his gear. Then he touched the turf, held the hand to his heart. Whether he asked for a hundred or not, he looked destined for it.
Kohli's made better runs before; tougher runs; more meaningful runs, but his 139 against West Indies was the perfect advertisement of the one quality that makes him a modern-day great. Keeping the noise out.
His innings began when the spotlight was on Prithvi Shaw, who was busy making batting look easier than breathing. Kohli was new to the crease. He would need time to understand the pace of the pitch and the kinds of shots he could play. He waited until the 17th delivery for his first boundary - a risk-less straight drive against an inviting half-volley.
Kohli spent 230 deliveries in the middle. Yet, according to Cricviz, his innings included only five false shots. This is where India's captain towers over his peers. He puts in the work to get set and then rarely gives it away.
Leading up to his dismissal, he was playing shots as if a voice inside his head was giving him imaginary targets to hit. "Long-off". He turned a length ball into a half-volley with a superb stride. "Midwicket". Hit against the turn off legspinner Devendra Bishoo. "Straight of midwicket". The auto-pilot flick, head over the ball, wrists working smoothly. It all seemed like indulgence; as if he was treating himself for all the time he didn't play an extravagant shot when he very well could have.
And why did he wait until he had over 100 to put on a show? Because that's how Test cricket is played. That's how Test matches are won. The docile pitch. The quality of opposition. The heat. All of it is peripheral to a batsman. His job is to give himself the best chance to make runs. Kohli does it better than most; so much so that sometimes it can be boring to sit through one of his innings.
Rishabh Pant, on the other hand...
Watching India's wicketkeeper bat is really really fun. So is just watching his actual bat, and the places it ends up. He just swings it so hard, often throwing himself off balance in the process. But because of the speed he generates with his hands, he gets the power he needs to find the boundary. It's an incredible method; ridiculously popular in gully cricket. Yet here it is, on the international stage, yielding big runs.
Check out his pictures from the IPL, and all the weird positions he ends up in. He'd whack the ball so hard that even when he wanted to clear the infield at cover, he'd look like he was slogging. He only just avoids keeling over as he thunders down the track to smack one over midwicket. And when he sweeps, phew, that bat could teach windmills a thing or two.
It takes confidence to play like that and Pant has so much he should think about a side-business curing people with an inferiority complex. He had a Test hundred for the taking in Rajkot, a second in as many innings and the title of the first India wicketkeeper to pull off such a sequence. He swung hard, as he does. Swung against the turn, which was not so good. Got out for 92. Eight more runs and the birthday party from last night could have got a second wind.
It's a small mistake in light of the position India are in, but it is the kind that can be avoided, as Kohli keeps showing. He's got to 1000 runs for a third year in a row by cutting out silly mistakes. People around the world know his weakness outside the off stump, but to exploit it, the pitch needs to be helpful, the bowler needs to know how to swing the ball, the team needs to show discipline and only after that does the edge come and then it needs to be caught.
Those are long odds.
The odds on a Kohli century: right now, it's one every five innings.