Virat Kohli stands as the colossal talent in the way of the Proteas
You cannot beat them until you have beaten their inspired skipper
Virat Kohli has not only redefined captaincy, but the art of being the batting test captain with his half-dozen double tons in just 18 months.
That's put the likes of Don Bradman (test average: 99.94 with four 200s) and Brian Lara (test bests of 400* and 375 along with five 200s) in the shade.
It would be easy to dismiss his feats because of the benign nature of the places where he's compiled his brisk big scores but his average in South Africa can't be snarled at. It's also worth remembering he captivated the Wanderers with a sparkling 119 and 96 against a South African attack of Dale Steyn, Vernon Philander, Morne Morkel and Jacques Kallis in 2013.
Judging from his two forays in Australia, where he scored his maiden test 100 on the troubled 2011/12 tour, he preys on pace.
PROTEAS THE FIRST TARGET
On the following tour where he made his captaincy bow midway through the four-test series, he racked up four tons, including two in the Adelaide test India lost by 48 runs.
Kohli will have time to clean his blotted England copybook but a South African side which is difficult to gauge will be his first target.
Former Proteas coach and former India bowling consultant Eric Simons was privy to Kohli's development from a precocious and cocky youngster to a driven and hard-edged batting captain."I don't think I've ever met a batsman who is as up for the fight and keen to do battle as Virat is.
He's that type who sizes up the stage and if the stage is big, that brings the best out of him. He's got incredible confidence allied with the desire to succeed. If you look at how he's converted his big scores and his hunger for runs, he doesn't seem to get tired. He's a brave cricketer who doesn't fear failure," Simons said.
"He's a natural leader and an incredibly driven individual. The level of fitness you see in the current Indian team is because of him. He has turned his life around completely in terms of how he approaches fitness, diet and the game and that's showed in his big scores."He wasn't wayward but when he realised he needed to compete with the best in the world, he stepped up his game. I suppose the added responsibility and the expectation that comes with being captain of India is part of him and he carries that expectation well."
Kohli's batting armoury also consists of batsmen who have enjoyed the pace and bounce offered by South African surfaces.
Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara prospered on the 2013/14 two-test series won by Graeme Smith's side.
A four-test series, similar to the one where South Africa's batting was stripped to the bone on doctored Bunsen burners in 2015, would've been the perfect examination of willpower and technique.
Asian batsmen are judged more on what they produce overseas than their natural gorging on their batting-friendly or turning pitches.
Simons said the Proteas will be well served by letting sleeping dogs lie about pitch preparation in light of the 2015/16 series in India.
"He doesn't just thrive on the bounce, he thrives on the competition," Simons said.