I was brought up in a country where cricket is considered almost a religion. More than 18 years of watching cricket, I have seen many great batsmen dominating the game, setting the landmarks and raising the bar high. When I started watching cricket, Sachin Tendulkar was knocking them bitches out in his international reign and I could have never thought someone this flamboyant and destructive would ever grace a cricket field, but then again Time is a wonderful master. We got Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara, Matthew Hayden, MS Dhoni, Virat Kohli and a lot of great talent. But in 2006, I saw an interview on a TV Channel where this young 22-year-old, who had just scored more than 1000 runs the previous calendar year said to the media’I want to be the No 1 batsman in the world’ and all the persons present there laughed.N one of them would have thought that this 22-year-old would change the game forever and no one will be able to figure out the physics behind his shots, not even Mr Hawking. That young boy was AB De Villiers.
Imagine, coming to bat in the 39th over and smashing 149 runs off 44 balls, what level of freak you have to be? I am a fan of great defensive batting, while at the same time like onslaught hammering on the field. This bloke got it all. He has the fastest 50, fastest 100, fastest 150 to his name, mind you, he made 100 in 31 balls(jaw drops), while at the same time to save a test match in Adelaide, he scored 33 off 220 balls, yeah that is slower than the Indian Judiciary system.
“I have been saying for the Past 30 Years that Vivian Richards has to be the best batsman of all time. But I am going to have to reassess that because this guy (AB de Villiers) is something Extraordinary” –Bob Willis
The ball cracks off AB de Villiers’ bat. There is no real hint of violence; just a marriage of beauty and brutality. His every shot, breathtakingly crisp and yet flying off his bat with alacrity, feels like a riposte to any who still deride T20 as slogging. The 40,000 at the ground intoxicated by his show are too mesmerised to think of such questions. ABD is a kind of batsman who falls in the category of some big hitters as Sir Vivian Richards, Virendra Sehwag, Sanath Jayasuriya, Brendon McCullum, David Warner etc. who are capable of thrashing the opposition in a matter of minutes. But one thing that is peculiar about ABD is his consistency. He is not like one of those, who perform on 2-3 occasions out of 10. Game after another, he keeps on improving. Once he steps out there, the heat bar automatically goes high.
Six follows six, each thundered more crisply than the last. There are slog sweeps against spin, balls flicked 100 metres over long on like a topspin forehand – as a child, de Villiers beat Kevin Anderson, now the men’s tennis world No8 – and drives propelled flat over extra cover. De Villiers seems to have a preternatural sense of where the ball will be delivered and how he will hit it. After each six, the screen flashes up with a reverential sign: ‘AB Dynamite’ or ‘A dmirable B rilliant D azzling’.
“I am not in the same category as AB de Villiers. He is a guy that comes out and gets himself in and then all of a sudden he just switches from slow motion to the extreme rocket or something like that. Whatever he is eating, we want some of that. That’s the way he plays; it is fearless cricket.” – David Warner.
The NBA basketball league is in thrall to its ‘unicorns’. This new breed of players is unshackled by the old compromises between tall players and smaller, agile ones. Instead, new-age players like Kevin Durant can do it all, combining the technique of point guards – who run games like deep-lying football midfielders – with the athleticism of power forwards, and so redefine the parameters of their sport.
Batting’s unicorn is de Villiers. He mocks the notion of compromising between effectiveness in Tests and T20s, or between hitting the ball 360-degrees and possessing a forward defensive that can inoculate his wicket against harm. He can shuffle across to outside off-stump, go down on one knee and scoop Dale Steyn, the greatest fast bowler of his generation, for six; or he can leave outside his off-stump with the self-restraint of an ascetic monk. He can harry twos between the wicket or smite reverse-sweeps with impunity.
Largely the problem was of over-complication. Because de Villiers could do it all, sides used him as an elite-level utility player, reasoning that he was capable of concealing any weakness in their batting order. There were many great innings, but de Villiers was like a fine wine too often served with the wrong food. South Africa became preoccupied with the notion that de Villiers was much less effective when he came in to bat in the first 10 overs, and their strategy revolved around holding him back until the second half of the innings so that he would often bat at No5. In the 2014 WT20 semi-final defeat by India, de Villiers did not enter the crease until the 14th over.
It was not until 2015, when he was already 31, that de Villiers began to lord over T20 with quite the same regal air as he did Tests and ODI cricket. What changed was not his game – he had always been a batsman of staggering repertoire and chutzpah – but how he was able to declutter his approach. After years of oscillating between positions, de Villiers now has a settled role: in all but one innings in T20 since the 2016 WT20, he has batted at three or four. Ever since de Villiers has metamorphosed from a fine T20 batsman into a transcendental one. From averaging 38.71, and scoring at 8.40 an over in the IPL before 2015, he is since averaging 51.12, and scoring at 10 runs an over. Since 2016, CricViz rates him as the second-best IPL batsman, trailing only David Warner – making de Villiers the best IPL batsman currently allowed to play cricket. And his Test batting against India and Australia this year, after an 18-month hiatus, was as imperious as ever.
“Has anyone ever seen AB and Superman in the same room? Don’t think so. Fear of spiders is arachnophobia. Fear of tight spaces is claustrophobia. Fear of bowling to AB is logic.” – Jimmy Neesham
With every passing year, de Villiers is managing the audacious feat of scoring both ever-more quickly and ever-more consistently, exploring the outer limits of batting’s possibilities. In 2018 he averages 56 and scores at over 11 runs an over: he is recalibrating our understanding of what is possible in T20, and rejecting as false the traditional compromise that a batsman can be consistent or score at a stunning tempo from their very first ball, but not do both.
And De Villiers is not only a complete cricketing package but very reverential and benevolent person. In an encounter of Royal Challengers Banglore with Rajasthan Royals, he gave his MAN OF THE MATCH AWARD to young RCB star Mandeep Singh.
Frigging at 55/3 at one stage, Mandeep and AB de Villiers put on a flamboyant 113-run partnership to help their side post 180/4 at the end of 20 overs. “I haven’t performed that well in the last couple of innings. I have no idea how we got to 180.” AB de Villiers admitted his side was looking at 140 on the board.
“The way Mandeep played was a Man-Of-the-Match performance. The trophy will go to him after the presentation,” he said.
Well,” A great player always puts his teammates before him” And this gesture of ABD really shows this.
In short, he is a gift to the game of cricket. And the sport is lucky that de Villiers decided to bestow his incredible talent on the 22 yards rather than in golf, tennis and rugby, in each of which he might have excelled with the same élan.
“I demand a DNA Test of AB De Villiers. This game is only for humans”: Aakash Chopra.
AB de Villiers has scored 9,577 runs in ODIs averaging at a massive 53.50. Virat Kohli is the only cricketer (with 9,000+) runs who averages more than AB. However, the South African boasts a stunning strike rate of 101.09 as compared to Virat Kohli’s 92.14. Scoring 9577 runs at a strike rate of above 100, the guy is more destructive than the bloke who ate ‘Mooli Ke Paranthe’ for dinner.
When it comes to de Villiers, it is not about the stats, the records or the fame; it’s about the impact that he has made in the way modern-day cricket is played. After all, where can you find a player who can give you a combination of the classical and the freakish in the same innings? Or be clinical and destructive at the same moment?
No area on the cricket field is safe when he is out in the centre. Such is his range that a ball outside off-stump could be crashed through the covers and another one bowled in precisely the same area could disappear over square-leg.
The best batsmen evolve over time. Kohli is closer to mastering Tests than before, Warner’s ODI career had a curiously low-key beginning and it took Steve Smith time to become what he is now.
De Villiers was a great talent to watch when he arrived, he ripened with time and now he is at another level.
It may be that his genius works against him, much in the way that it could be doing for a growing body of modern sporting greats.
Are great sportsmen just too great now for greatness to mean anything?
Are they so good that it becomes a little boring after a while?
It often feels that way with De Villiers. That flip over square leg, or sweeping the fast bowlers – these are the acts of a man who has surveyed the entire batting spectrum and then gone further.
At those moments cricket seems pitiably undemanding for a man of his gifts, a man we should remind ourselves could have taken his pick of almost any sport when he was young.
He should be doing something extreme, like sprinting up Everest or leading an elite combat unit.
It was in June 2017, AB De Villiers, one of 21st century’s greatest batsman decided to go off on a break that was potentially linked to the swansong of a glorious international. Having endured a torrid time as South Africa’s limited-overs skipper in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy and the T20I series against England, De Villiers decided to put his career on recess in order to reduce his workload and spend a bit of time off at home with his family. And when he decided to return against Bangladesh in the limited overs format, there was no doubt whatsoever over the impact his return to the country’s limited-overs side would be as Mr.360 was unleashed from the first game against the Bangladeshis to all the way against their neighbouring minnows Zimbabwe. But questions loomed over whether De Villiers could actually revive his Test career when his nation was scheduled for the toughest summer with consecutive series against the top Test side in the form of India and followed by the mighty Australians, who were oozing with confidence coming back of a remarkable Ashes triumph.
At 34 years of age, it could prove to be a nightmare for any world-class cricketer making a comeback against two top-quality visitors, but AB is no average world-class batsman. Had you thought it was a foolish and complicated task in the twilight of his career, you are bound to be disappointed as South Africa’s Man of Steel arrived and arrived in a way only he can do.
With him being the ultimate difference maker with the bat in the first two Tests against India, De Villiers secured the series for South Africa, which won the series 2-1 and he wasn’t done with that. Following an embarrassing loss against Australia in the first Test in Durban, South Africa needed their best player to shine and shine he did. De Villiers returned to the AB of old with an unbeaten 126 in the second Test on Sunday – a hundred that was out of sheer brilliance from the blade of cricket’s most gifted stroke-maker on an onerous turf that left even the Australians with awe and applause. It is said that the price of Greatness is responsibility and AB demonstrated exactly what greatness. On a wicket where even the technically sound and gifted batsmen on both sides struggled to put their head down and battle for runs, De Villiers came out and played an innings that was completely on a different level that was beyond the reach of 21 others in the same game and that proved to be the difference as South Africa would go on to level the series 1-1.
A sportsman (or woman) is often defined by their ability in one sport. The legends will outstrip that sport and make themselves a domiciliary name around the world. But to discover one person who engenders unquantifiable envy for their dexterity across multiple sports is almost impossible. To find one with great abasement, intelligence and good grace is even harder.
- been short-listed for national Hockey and Football teams
- captained the South African junior Rugby team. (he was regarded as one of the best young fly-halves in the country)
- 6 South African swimming records to his name.
- the fastest 100m time by a South African junior.
- been a member of the SA junior Davis Cup team.
- won the South African U19 National Badminton championships
- a Golf handicap of scratch.
Amazingly though, it doesn’t stop there for this incredible human being.
While during his academic tenure, Afrikaanse Hoer Soenskool, de Villiers received an eminent medal from the late Nelson Mandela. For sport, you would surely think? No. For a science project. Is there anything this man can’t do?
Simply put, I don’t think there’s anything that AB cannot do. You know, there actually may be one thing he lacks the ability to achieve – the ability to find a better all-around sportsman than himself!
“If I have to pick the best batsmen in world cricket right now, only two names come to my mind. One is AB de Villiers and other is Virat Kohli” – Nasir Hussain.
In an interview, Kohli told that they were playing at Wankhede and crowd was chanting ‘ABD ABD’ so loud that Rohit Sharma came to me and asked ‘Bhai Kya Chal RHA hai yeh’.
Most of the ODI innings played by the genius, would be full of Ripley’s believe-it-or-not innovative shots, be it the ramp over the wicket-keeper, the audacious paddles past short fine or the undaunted and daredevil reverse sweeps and reverse pulls while facing up fast bowlers. Unequivocally, with his ability to manoeuvre the field placements and his excellent hand-eye coordination, de Villiers has turned out to be one of the most exciting batsmen across all formats of the game. His girlfriend Danielle Swart travelled with him ahead of the IPL in 2013 and the batsman proposed to his longtime girlfriend during a visit to the Taj Mahal. Quite fitting that he proposed to his girlfriend at perhaps the most romantic place on earth. The meaning of AB is as not merely the most captivating and brilliant all-format player of his age, but as a unicorn who is a bridge between cricket’s old world and new. For de Villiers is an affirmation that, for all the moves to specialism, six-hitting training and players bulking-up, what T20 rewards more than everything is brilliant batsmanship, just refined for a new age.
Last week AB de Villiers shocked the world when he announced his retirement from international cricket. It’s heartbreaking, totally heartbreaking for any cricket fan. AB De Villiers is among those players who are loved, respected and cheered across the whole planet. He is just 34 years old, not an age where an in-form batsman retires from International Cricket. Whatever be the reason behind this decision, I respect it and whole cricket fraternity will respect it. Just a few days back, he jumped 3 feet above the ground and stretched his body like a Spiderman to take that mind-blowing catch. And now, he retires. He won’t play 2019 ICC World Cup. Cricket really owed ABD a world cup.No matter what reasons, De Villiers retires as a legend who brought in a new dimension to the game. He became only the 11th cricketer to cross 20000 international runs. We might remember him for his limited overs game, but he was a spectacular Test batsman as well. The man who was known for his incredible unorthodox shots, actually never practised them. It was just in the moment and that takes some serious skills. He was just a prodigious natural talent.
So, there’s that, once he believed that he won’t be at his best come next year, he decided to call it a day, and bring tears to cricket lovers(including me) eyes all over the world. Many cricketers even continue playing a long way past their prime, when they can’t even give their 100% on and off the field. They just wait for a chance to have one final shot at glory. And ladies and gentlemen here are a man who decided to quietly walk out of the action after providing years and years of entertainment to fans around the world. Goodbye legend, World Cricket will miss you.
“AB De Villiers is the most valuable cricketer on the planet”: Adam Gilchrist
“He is the best batsman of this era”: Virat Kohli.
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