Kohli will lead the tourists out on the field for the second Test at Supersport Park in Centurion, a stronghold where South Africa have won 17 and lost just one of 21 matches.
As if that was not daunting enough India know they have to improve against the world’s best pace attack having been skittled out for 209 and 135 at Newlands.
But the India captain said this was not the time to panic and that playing an extra batsman wasn’t necessarily the answer. “People need to apply themselves much better whether we are playing five batsmen or six,” Kohli said.
“If you are playing six batters, it doesn’t mean you can afford to go out and play loose shots.
“We might do something different, but there is definitely no need to panic. As a batting line-up, we have played well for a long time. We just need to adapt and apply ourselves better when we go out to bat.”
Shikhar Dhawan, who made 16 and 16 last week, is almost certain to sit this one out, but there was no clarity on which two openers India would go with. KL Rahul alongside Murali Vijay is the obvious choice, but given the team management’s preference for a left-right combination, there could even be a shock recall for Parthiv Patel, who last played against England in December 2016.
If he does play, then India can afford to add an additional middle-order batsmen, with Ajinkya Rahane likely to be pencilled in at No. 5. That would mean the axe for Wriddhiman Saha, fewer than five days after he completed an Indian record of ten catches in a match.
For Faf du Plessis and South Africa, it is a straight choice between Chris Morris, the all-rounder, and Lungi Ngidi, a promising tearaway fast bowler, to replace the crocked Dale Steyn. Morris would strengthen the batting, but tends to leak runs with the ball.
“Before yesterday, I hadn’t seen him bowl at all,” said Du Plessis when asked about Ngidi. “I believe there is a lot of talent there. He bowls a heavy ball, and I’m excited to have him in the group.”
Du Plessis, who grew up in the area, expected the pitch to be fast and bouncy, but accepted that the harsh sun of the past week had burnt off much of the grass. He was also not about to discount India’s chances. “Their bowlers took 20 wickets, the only part when we were a little bit better was we got more runs in the first innings,” he said of the first Test. “I expect another huge performance from them. For us it’s about making sure we don’t take a step back. If you do that against a strong team like India, they will pounce on you.”