India captain Virat Kohli chats to the media ahead of the first test against the Proteas in Cape Town. Photo: BackpagePix

Dale Steyn has a fondness for targeting the "head of the snake" of the opposing team ahead of a major series. When the opposition is India, the "head" undoubtedly is captain Virat Kohli.

Equally, on the side of South Africa, that title belongs to AB de Villiers. The duo are the undoubted billboard attractions in both their teams, with their "bums on seats" star value almost second to none in the cricket world.

When these two go head-to-head – like they will over the coming months starting at Newlands in the first Test on Friday – sparks are sure to fly. The fact that they are good friends due to being longstanding teammates at Royal Challengers Bangalore only adds further spice an intriguing duel.

"AB is a great friend of mine," Kohli said at his team’s arrival press conference 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."

India captain Virat Kohli talks about how much respect he has for AB de Villiers.

The Indian skipper downplayed the fact that either of their individual performances will singularly decide the three-match series though.

"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 returning from injury and a self-imposed sabbatical that lasted just on two years. He scored a half-century in his comeback match against Zimbabwe earlier this week at St George’s Park. 

Kohli, meanwhile, is desperate to become the first Indian skipper to lead his team to a series victory in South Africa.

"I feel that with the kind of bowling attack we have now and the balance we have in the side, we definitely feel that we can win here," he said.

"If we didn’t have that mindset then there would be no point getting onto that flight. We have come here wanting to express ourselves, believing in our abilities and knowing that we have the right balance to win Test matches in any conditions that we face. For us it’s about winning sessions and executing our skills well."


IOL Sport

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