Virat Kohli had stretched forward. He leant on his bat, glanced at the rattled timber and, then, stared at a spot on the Pune surface.

After the disbelief had hit him, Kohli relaxed his stretched position. He, now, stood at the same spot with a hand on the bat and another on his waist. His helpless eyes reconfirmed the disturbed stumps and, then, questioned that spot on the pitch at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium.

The shock had now set in. India was stunned. Kohli and his boisterous willow had been silenced for a second instance in two outings.

It was not the fault of the spot on the wicket which Kohli glared at twice. He had just left the ball too early. He could have waited, but he had not. Kohli had shouldered arms to a Steve O’Keefe delivery that had pitched outside off. But to his horror, it did not turn. It sent Kohli back to the pavilion, and with it the hopes of a nation not used to defeat on home soil for the last couple of years.

A rare double failure

Thereon, defeat was imperative for India on the Pune dustbowl. Australia had been beaten at home by South Africa and run close by Pakistan. But in India, a tour that has led to embarrassment for more than a decade, they announced their latest arrival with a roar.

Kohli’s second-innings dismissal had sealed India’s fate and Australia’s triumph. But, it was his two-ball stint in his first appearance of the Test that had allowed Steve Smith’s men to believe.

If Kohli’s call to leave the O’Keefe delivery had been lethal, his impulse to chase a Mitchell Starc bolt that was full and wide had helped Australia land the first blow. It was a delivery that would have caused no harm, had it been left. But, Kohli was in envious form, the kind that compelled him to play the needless drive.

The scant contributions from the captain had rocked the Indian ship. But, as much as it provided the visitors a reason to rejoice, the Australian outfit would have done well to not allow the manner of India’s surrender and Kohli’s struggles during the course to get to their heads.

The Galle loss gave India wings

It was back in August 2015 that India last capitulated in a Test match. Under the Galle sun, India were blown away for 112 in pursuit of a paltry 176.What followed was a glorious run that saw Kohli’s men capture one series after another. The Indian team’s impressive run, albeit majorly at home, started with them winning the next two Tests in Sri Lanka, and with it the series. It was followed by series triumphs against South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand and England. They even brushed aside Bangladesh in a one-off Test.


Ever since the humiliation in Galle, the Indian side did not suffer another loss until Pune.

In the first Test of this series too, the Indian team were disgraced. The magnanimity of the defeat and that it came on home turf deepened the wounds. But if how the team responded to their last embarrassment is a marker, a resurgent Indian team could bury the ghosts of Pune rather quickly.

To help them in their pursuit of redemption, Kohli could play the protagonist again.

Failure makes Kohli try even more harder

Over the last two years especially, Kohli has rarely failed. A double failure has been even rarer. It was across the four innings in Gros Islet and Kanpur that Kohli last stumbled consistently. But it was after those failures that Kohli rose.

Kohli was always a threat, one of the best batsmen in the world. But, those consecutive flops appeared to have infused in him a renewed determination and vigour. He was now not just a threat and one of the best, but he was the best, at least on Indian soil – the battleground for Australia’s skirmish.

But a span of three double centuries, one hundred and two fifties later, Australia managed to inflict the rare pain of consecutive failures on Kohli. That pain in the past has awakened the run-making monster in the Indian captain.


And, the signs are ominous for Australia. The next Test is in Bangalore. It is a ground Kohli, as the skipper of the Royal Challengers Banaglore, knows better than a lot of the locals. All the Twenty20 cricket of the Indian Premier League he may have played at the M Chinnaswamy may not make him the star of Test cricket in Bangalore. But, apart from his knowledge of the ground, he adores it too.

The affection for the venue combined with the hurt of the double failure in the first Test could make Kohli impossible to deal with. It is a threat Australia must brace for.

The signs are ominous for Australia

Australia, after all, are his favourite opponents too. He has notched up six centuries against them. Five of the tons have come in hostile conditions Down Under. With the kind of form he has been through the season, Kohli’s record at home against Australia could shine by the time the series ends too. And, the men from Down Under are well aware.

“He’s scored a mountain of runs already this year. I’m sure he’ll come back bigger and stronger in the next Test, so we’re going to have to be wary of that Virat comeback,” admitted Mitchell Starc, the leader of the bowling pack that won Australia the first Test. “We know he’s going to be another key wicket for the rest of the series. There’s six more times we’ve got to get him out to really cement [Australia’s position of dominance in] this series.”

The opponents may have triumphed in the openers, but that could not stop them from worrying about Kohli. The Indian captain has not been much perturbed by the shocking result.

Kohli prepared to unleash the assault in the second Test by taking his mind away from the game. The humiliation of a three-day defeat can, often, last for the next Test and beyond. But, captain Kohli wanted no memory of the defeat in Pune. He wanted little to do with the game itself. He set off on a trek with the team before arriving in Bangalore with a fresh mind. For, come Saturday, it will be back to business on the cricket greens. And, Kohli will wait for the Australians with his sharpened willow.