Kohli's wretched form played a part in India's humiliating defeat in New Zealand

Virat Kohli's poor run with the bat in New Zealand sparked such reaction from some former players that it felt like the Indian icon's best days are already behind him.

Now as India face South Africa - a team that thrashed Australia 3-0 recently - in the first game of the three-game ODI series in Dharamshala on Thursday, pressure will be on the Indian captain to rediscover his magic touch.

Kohli's wretched form played a part in India's humiliating defeat in New Zealand where his team were whitewashed in both the Test and one-day series.

But Rajkumar Sharma, Kohli's childhood coach, knows his famous pupil has what it takes to bounce back in style.

After all, it's the same Kohli that hit back at his critics with four stunning centuries in Australia in 2014-2015 - just months after being tormented by English bowlers in seaming conditions.

"He (Kohli) is mentally very strong and he knows where he is making the mistakes," Sharma told Khaleej Times during an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

"As you know, he has made big comebacks in the past as well. I am sure he is going to bounce back again to tell the world why he is one of the best players in the world."

Sharma, though, felt the criticism against Kohli was too harsh after one poor series in New Zealand.

"Yes, I definitely feel that after one series there should be not so much criticism," he said.

"Every player goes through such phases. A player doesn't suddenly become bad after two poor matches. Batsmen do lose their form sometimes.

"He (Kohli) has shown in the last six-seven years what a wonderful player he is and what he has done for the team."

Kohli has come a long way since joining Sharma's academy as a nine-year-old in Delhi. But what hasn't changed all these years is his hunger for runs.

"When it comes to Virat in his childhood and Virat now, he has obviously matured a lot. But his approach to the game has remained same," Sharma said.

"He came to me when he was nine. Even then he had same the hunger to make runs and do well for his team, just like now."

For a man that has hit a staggering 70 international centuries, Kohli still talks to his childhood coach about his game.

"Yes, we still talk about cricket and his game. We talk about where he is doing well and if there is still room for improvement," Sharma said.

"Now he knows his game very well, he knows what he has to do. It's because he understands his game so well that he has become such a wonderful player."