India Test captain Virat Kohli answers questions during a press conference. Photo: Phando Jikelo/African News Agency

Well, to be absolutely clear, it was what didn’t happen.

Throughout the series, the ball has held sway over the bat. It’s been refreshing to see, and runs have required skill and patience.

Caps were doffed at the efforts of each of the South African batsmen who contributed to the team cause, and 40s were considered as important as 70s, while half-century offerings were granted even more significance.

It was tough, uncompromising cricket, and any batsmen who raised his willow had played very well.

Imagine then, just how much attention was paid to the outstanding performance with the bat in the match.

Virat Kohli scored 153 of the finest runs you will see this year, facing an attack that is rightly being lauded for its promise ahead of a shootout against an equally menacing Australia.

But, back to Kohli.

There was not one question relating to his personal performance, an effort that must surely rank up there with his century against Mitchell Johnson in Australia, as his very best batting on the road.

Not one question. Not one cursory glance at what many accepted could have been a decisive knock in the outcome, if only the others had gone with him.

It was staggering, but also a timely reminder of the perks and perils of being the prince among travelling paupers in your team of home comforts and foreign famine.

Rohit Sharma was lauded for slapping Sri Lanka silly in December, but he has looked half a man on this trip - cut down to size by speed and swing.

The same applies got Shikhar Dhawan, K.L. Rahul and several others who came here with bloated form.

Runs on the road say everything about a batsman’s true mettle.

After all, any weekend hacker can shoot the lights out at his local golf club, but most wilt under the scrutiny of conditions that are unfamiliar to the eye.

India’s batsmen have been those weekend hackers, losing balls by the hole, seemingly unable to even show a glimpse of their supposed pedigree.

Of course, there was that magnificent riposte by Hardik Pandya in Cape Town, but he looks a cricketing camper who pitches up anywhere ready to play.

The rest, however, have been dismal.

Which begs the question, how hollow a feeling must it be to be Kohli, as you score runs and lose partners all at once?

There is usually precious little in the way of sympathy afforded to Kohli, because he prances and pouts with all the petulance of a Hollywood diva.

He is in the face of opponents, celebrating every wicket as if it were a World Cup-winning moment.

But, his primary function, the thing he was born to do, is to bat.

And there, with his lips sealed and his blade unwavering, he remains one of cricket’s mist irresistible sights.

Kohli in full flow is a ticket that most would happily pay for.

And yet, in the aftermath of a series defeat, he wasn’t even paid the passing compliment of being asked to reflect on what that innings might have meant to Kohli the player.

To Kohli the captain, it only delayed the defeat.

But, like Brian Lara and other superstars surrounded by mediocrity, Kohli’s runs are often personal footnotes for collective humiliations. There must be some sadness in that.

We’ll never know.

We never asked.


Sunday Tribune

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