AB de Villiers: The inimitable phenomenon of world cricket

AB de Villiers: The inimitable phenomenon of world cricket

AB de Villiers can be the brutal beast, but at the same time, he can also metamorphize effortlessly into the caressing master.

AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers. (Photo SOurce: IPL/BCCI)

The Indian crowd is known to be an extremely partisan one. The people of India love their Indian cricketing heroes, and it is not easy for an overseas player to win the hearts of the Indian fans. But then, in November 2015, when a South African batsman walked out to bat in his 100th Test match, the Bangalore crowd welcomed him as if he were their own.

As AB de Villiers strode out to the middle in his 100th Test match, chants of ‘ABD ABD’ resonated across the entire Chinnaswamy stadium. This was a kind of chant that the Indian crowd generally reserves for the superstars of their own country. Sachin Tendulkar had made the Indian crowd go nuts. The crowd has gone mad when MS Dhoni has walked in. Virat Kohli has sent the crowd into a tizzy. But then, this was different.

AB de Villiers is a cricketer who is loved in almost every part of the world. Yes, he might be playing against the side that you support, but you secretly want him to do well. You will secretly wish that he unfurls his magic with the willow, even though a good day for De Villiers generally means that the bowling attack of the side you support is smashed to a pulp.

AB de Villiers – A Batsman of a rare breed

South Africa v West Indies - 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – FEBRUARY 27: AB de Villiers of South Africa bats during the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup match between South Africa and the West Indies at Sydney Cricket Ground on February 27, 2015 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Generally, when the greatness of a batsman is measured, his numbers are scrutinized. And, yes, de Villiers generated stunning numbers. He represented South Africa in over 100 Tests and scored close to 9000 runs at an average of 50.66. He ruled ODI cricket and plundered a colossal 9577 runs at a stunning average of 53.50. And in T20Is too, the master flayed several bowling attacks and amassed 1672 runs at a strike rate of 135.17.

But hey, what are we doing with numbers here? Just chuck them out for a second, throw them out of your window for now, for we are talking about a phenomenon. More than the statistics, de Villiers was a batsman of a rare breed.

Throw your mind to the delivery that is bowled outside off stump, where de Villiers hops to the offside, goes down on one knee, and nonchalantly flicks it over fine leg. Recall that delivery that is bowled on the leg stump, with the leg side boundary riders waiting for de Villiers to hit the ball in their direction.

But then, what does the master do? He moves towards leg stump and smashes the ball over cover. De Villiers can toy with the field as if saying to the bowler ‘It does not matter where you bowl. I can hit you to whichever part of the ground that I want to’.

Versatility – The hallmark of AB de Villiers’ Genius

AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers of South Africa celebrates scoring a half-century. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

You will see de Villiers going down on one knee and scooping the ball over fine leg. This shot is not in any coaching manual, but when the South African plays it, you gape at him in astonishment. And at the same time, you will see him unfurl a TEXTBOOK cover drive, where the foot goes to the pitch of the ball, the weight is transferred onto the front foot, and the gap is threaded with precision. ABD can be the brutal beast, but at the same time, he can also metamorphize effortlessly into the caressing master.

And, we know that de Villiers holds the record for scoring the fastest 150 in ODI cricket. In a 66-ball knock, the right-hander plundered 162 runs. That was an innings where de Villiers manipulated the field, decimated the West Indian bowling attack to all parts of the ground, and scored his runs at a strike rate of 245.45.

Now, let us move to a different scene. The venue is Adelaide. The year is 2012. South Africa are battling to save a Test match against Australia. The Proteas are set a target of 430 for victory and will have to bat for close to 2 days to save the Test. And, the master steps up for his side.

AB de Villiers consumes 220 balls and scores 33 runs. This means that De Villiers consumed a whopping 36.4 overs and scored 33 runs. His marathon vigil at the crease helped South Africa thwart the Australian charge, as the Proteas played out 148 overs to secure a famous draw. If de Villiers can go berserk, he could also curb his natural instincts and go into a shell as well. And, this versatility was the hallmark of de Villiers’ Genius.

AB de Villiers – The Bangalore boy

AB de Villiers' 129* v GL
AB de Villiers’ 129* v GL. (Photo Source: IPL/BCCI)

While speaking about the bond that he shares with the Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) side in the IPL, de Villiers stated that he has made so many memories with RCB that will last a lifetime. The batting colossus also added that he will stay as an RCBian forever.

Yes, De Villiers set the stage on fire in the IPL too. Along with his partner in crime and batting Genius Virat Kohli, De Villiers gave sleepless nights to countless bowlers in IPL cricket.

The Kohli-De Villiers duo plundered 3123 runs together in the IPL for RCB and gave a myriad of memories to the fans that will last a lifetime. And, the icing on the cake was the 229-run partnership that the duo put on against the Gujarat Lions, to inspire the ‘Men in Red’ to a crushing 144-run victory.

But apart from the 5162 runs that he scored in the IPL, apart from the 3 centuries and 40 fifties, apart from all the numbers, de Villiers was the Bangalore boy. The fans in Bangalore treated De Villiers as one of their own and showered the South African with their love. And, De Villiers reciprocated it with his innovative Genius on the field.

AB de Villiers – A Phenomenon in a separate league

AB de Villiers
AB de Villiers. (Photo Source: IPL/BCCI)

The cricket world has seen just one batsman who carried a billion hopes on his shoulders for 24 years and made the fans fall for his stroke play in Sachin Tendulkar. The cricket world has seen just one man who stayed ICE COOL even when the pressure was splitting the heads of the other players in MS Dhoni.

Similarly, de Villiers is in a separate league of his own. He is an inimitable phenomenon who carved a niche for himself by playing a unique brand of cricket. And, with de Villiers’ final bow from the game on 19th November 2021, an era has drawn to a close. And it is an era that will occupy a special place in the hearts of countless fans.

Goodbye ABD! The sun has set!