The 25-year-old has taken over Tendulkar’s number four position in the batting line-up following the retirement of test cricket’s leading run-scorer, and his skill, grit and determination have drawn comparisons with the man dubbed the ‘Little Maestro’.
Former South Africa fast bowler Allan Donald, now the team’s bowling coach, watched Kohli compile his excellent century and, having played against Tendulkar many times, noticed similarities.
“Kohli reminds me of Sachin Tendulkar in the way he plays for his team when the chips are down,” Donald told reporters.
“There has been a lot of talk about him replacing Tendulkar in the number four position and today he made a statement.
“He left well, he punished the bad balls, he paced his innings well. He showed real fight, he was disciplined and aggressive when he needed to be.”
Kohli was also delighted with the innings, describing it has his best in test cricket and one that fulfilled a long-held dream of scoring a ton in South Africa.
Having also scored a century in his first test series in Australia in the 2011-12 season, it completed a worthy double for any player from the sub-continent.
“All I could think about was getting a test hundred in South Africa,” Kohli said. “This was something I wanted to do badly. I know how special it is for players to get a hundred here. It’s the best I have batted in test cricket.”
Kohli has felt the weight of expectation after taking Tendulkar’s position, but has been helped by batting further down the order in his first 20 tests.
“Number four is going to be a very crucial position for us in tests going forward and I want to make my mark in that position,” he said. “I got good exposure at five and six.
“I knew that I would probably get the four slot when Sachin retired and it is a challenge because he has done so well in that position. But for me it is nice to get into the action early, get your plans together and execute.”
There had been talk that Kohli was a soft-touch to the short-pitched ball, a key weapon of the South African attack, and the positive way he dealt with it was another big tick against his name.
“We know we are all going to get short-pitched stuff and unless you counter-attack it will keep coming. It is all about dictating terms when you go out to bat. I wanted to be positive,” Kohli said.
(Reporting by Nick Said; editing by Ed Osmond)