Few batsmen have garnered as much respect as adulation in world cricket as South Africa’s Abraham Benjamin De Villiers. It is funny. Ridiculously funny to note how AB makes batting look so easy. While fans, thanks to some brutal assaults ravaged on South Africa’s opponents have come to enjoy his heroics, his opponents have broken their backs, shed tears and been defeated in spirit.
Just how do you tackle AB?
Most would say bowling in the wrong areas to AB De Villiers spells trouble! Okay, that seems fair! But, incidentally just what are these weak areas? None have been able to find! Johnson, Murali, Taylor, Ajmal have waned out trying. Even AB’s contemporaries- Ashwin, Lyon, Herath, Hazlewood, Ishant or Bolt haven’t been able to figure.
More than making AB a target of their guile, most have become his bunnies- picture Holder, Yadav, Benn, Mohammad Amir and others! Often, the manner in which they’ve been hit by AB looks familiar to Baseball smashing. Some say don’t bowl short to him! But what about the wobbly swat of the bat that spins balls out into the stands? For goodness’ sake, the man has even creamed yorkers into cover boundary! Just how do you control the guy?
And yet, with nearly 17000 International runs, 45 tons, 89 fifties, De Villiers, it seems, has hardly broken sweat.
Must we not forget that De Villiers broke into cricket in 2004, making his debut at around the time where legends like Lara, Sachin, Ponting, Kallis and Sangakkara were in their second wind. New discussions had arisen to the core: which of today’s youngsters would carry the baton of world’s best batsmen. Today, with 2016 done and more than half of 2017 remaining, we see classy batsmen answering just that.
And yet, AB De Villiers’ mercurial name stands in isolation from a legion of greats famously known as Big 5- Dave Warner, Joe Root, Virat Kohli, Steven Smith and, Kane Williamson. Not because AB ain’t great. Simply because this league cannot envelope his uncontainable talent.
De Villiers cannot be bracketed in that great batsmen’s league
Cricket has seen batsmen who have dominated records. Those who have lifted the hopes of audiences. Those who have turned a competition single-handedly. And those who’ve done all of these together. Perhaps that is why De Villiers who’s all of this and more can’t be clubbed beside Kohli, Root, Williamson. It is both respectable and incredible to note that De Villiers finds respect and not contempt even from the most fiercest opponents on 22 yards.
Surely facing up to Mitchell Johnson or Josh Hazlewood can be chin-music. It can’t be easy to face Amir and the likes of Junaid Khan, Ashwin and Nathan Lyon. But instead of seeing venom being emitted with insidious anger by opponents, we see De Villiers being appreciated and admired. His inherent niceness, commitment to the game draw only respect and deep admiration from the opposite side, none enjoying sledging AB.
World Cricket is lucky to have a competitor in AB who raises the bar of the game every now and again either with a flurry of handsome strokes or with ingenious fielding methods. Seldom does he compromise on those lofty standards he’s set for himself. Whenever a match fixing scandal or a spot fixing charge crops up, re-visiting AB’s work ethics and conduct provides a reassurance. That all hope is not lost. And that cricket is still in good hands, like how it was when guys like Kallis, Sangakkara and Dravid took to the field.
Even an AB De Villiers autobiography reads like a thrill, quite like the man
In 2016, De Villiers, reaching a benchmark of sorts, post completing 200 ODI and 100 Test appearances, released its autobiography.
A compelling read, it touched on the earnest, even humble upbringings of an honest cricketer who regaled team wins and incredible victories with greater joy than his own achievements. And truth be told, there have been too many to count! His boisterous 149 off 44 balls! 16 sixes! What are we even talking? Is this normal cricket?
Then the fireworks against the Kiwis in a lost cause, albeit that semi-final 2015 shocker where an important 65 off just 45 in the first inning took off the pressure for Proteas in constructing a huge score. Even when the feeling of victory being New Zealand’s and not South Africa’s didn’t recede from hurting, AB, instead of plummeting to sadness erupted with roar that same year. Soon, against India in October 2015, he would strike 3 imperious hundreds, with Kanpur, Chennai and, Mumbai standing in to applaud a man none can have enough of.
De Villiers also reflected on India, lavishing effusive praise on a country where shouts of AB-AB reminded him that he’s made it in life. The book, an elegant page turner, like sifting past a record-heavy De Villiers text captured all with rich passion. And typical AB erudition. After all, here’s a guy who didn’t waste an additional second in lamenting over 2015’s World Cup loss.
He did let it out saying he was gutted. But moved on. Taking South Africa higher
Whether playing at Bangalore alongside KL, Watson and Kohli to scare opponents or waning down South Africa’s nemesis’ whilst clubbing forces with an Amla, de Kock, Du Plessis and, Duminy, all rejoice playing with AB.
In De Villiers’ ebb lie massive achievements and importantly, a solemn resolve to fight for glories for South Africa. Not since a Jack Kallis or Rahul Dravid or perhaps Kumar Sangakkara has cricket seen another consummate competitor. De Villiers is both- a revolutionary who can walk on broken glass for his side, a field marshal who determinedly withstands enemy fire to defend Proteas and, a tireless soldier who goes beyond the call of duty for his nation. You aren’t even a Muslim, Hindu, Jew, Christian or atheist when De Villiers walks out on 22 yards. You are saved by cricket’s legendary mountaineer. You are in awe of one of the game’s most modest man off the field. Ever.
AB= Sehwag + Klusener
While it won’t be incorrect to state that AB is alone an equivalent of 5 firing cannons blasting an opponent, it won’t be incorrect to suggest that maybe AB= Sehwag+ Klusener! Sehwag for the nearly childish ease with which he dismissed bowlers and Klusener for the rage with which he hammered a nail the enemies’ coffin for South Africa. De Villiers does it with a flair and preciseness that even when he’s ‘annihilating ’em- it becomes a sight to behold.