The greatest test for any team is showing their ability to bounce back from adversity.
The way India lost the first Test against Sri Lanka in Galle, any team would have found it difficult to produce a comeback. India not only showed their powers of bouncebackability by winning the second Test – one that Sri Lanka wanted to win more than anything, considering it was Kumar Sangakkara's farewell match – they went one better, by dominating Sri Lanka in the decider to clinch their first series win in this island nation in 22 years.
That is the kind of mental strength and ability to back yourselves in tough situations that gives confidence and hope for all followers of the India cricket team. Too many times, especially in Test cricket, India have buckled under the slightest signs of pressure, but in this series, particularly the last two Tests, India refused to let their heads drop.
And the bulk of the credit for that must go to Kohli, who backed his sometimes-over-the-top comments with actual action on the field. It is always easy to talk the talk, and after that walking failed miserably in the first Test, Kohli showed considerable strength of character to lead his team to a series win from 1-0 down in a three-Test series, the first time it has happened for India away from home.
"We maintain that drawing a Test match or thinking of those sorts of things has to be the last option for our group of guys right now," an elated and equally relieved Kohli said. "They have responded beautifully and there is nothing better than winning.
"I think this might be the right kind of boost that we require and that we have required over a long period of time.
"I know for a fact that the guys will want to improve their cricket even further from here on, knowing that we can do things like this. And they would want to beat other teams as well and get these kinds of results because these are special moments.
"These are the kind of things you remember when you are done with your career - how many games you have won, how many series you have won as a team. This is the right kind of push that this team needed. "
As good a captain as MS Dhoni is, in Test cricket "Captain Cool" had the penchant to let the match meander; to allow opponents to get back into the game by going on the defensive too early. With Kohli, that was almost never the case.
Even if he did make some strange decisions –that Harbhajan Singh bowling first up in the second session of the first Test after Ashwin had wrecked the Sri Lanka batting being a case in point – there was always that sense of "OK boys, no matter how bad it is, we will continue to be on the attack, to look for the wickets, to be patient and keep the pressure on the opponents."
India haven't bowled with as much discipline as they did in that first innings of the second Test match at the P Sara Oval in Colombo. Too many times, under Dhoni in Test cricket, that discipline has been lost in the blink of an eye.
It might or might not be the captain's fault (or in Kohli's case the opposite), but very rarely, if at all, has that discipline been maintained for sustained periods by the bowlers in Test match cricket – yes, playing in England, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia is a lot more difficult than subcontinental conditions, but alien conditions is not an entirely valid excuse for losing discipline.
However, Kohli's true test now begins. Next up is South Africa, you know, that team with AB De Villiers, the best batsman in the world, Hashim Amla, the runmachine, and Dale Steyn, the best fast bowler in the world.
To Kohli's advantage, it is at home, and India are as strong as any team in the world when it comes to playing in familiar confines. However, South Africa will pose a stiff test, and if Kohli can come out of that four-match Test series smelling like roses, we just might have a captain worthy of continuing the modern-era legacy built by Sourav Ganguly and MS Dhoni, albeit in his own inimitable way.